Passing the Montana Bar Examination

After four years of undergraduate work and three years of law school, one of your last steps towards fulfilling your dream of becoming a lawyer is to take the dreaded Bar exam. This exam will test your ability to both recall legal citations and procedures, as well as test your abilities to problem solve and apply the legal knowledge that you acquired during your schooling to sample cases. Each state has its own Bar exam that law students must pass before they can apply for licensure in their state, and the state of Montana has one of the most challenging exams around. To prepare for taking this exam you first need to know what will be on the exam, and what information will be covered in each section.

The Montana Bar Exam

The Montana Bar exam is one of the most difficult Bar exams in the United States, and it lasts for three days. Beginning in 2006 the Montana Bar Exam will be made up of four parts instead of the usual three: the Multi-state Bar Examination, the Montana Essay Examination, the Multi-state Essay Examination, and the Multi-state Performance Examination.

Usually on the first day of the exam you will take a multiple choice Multi-state Bar exam, and it will count for 35% of your total score. This portion of the Montana State Bar Exam will consist of 200 multiple choice which are aimed at testing the skills that you acquired during your three years of law school, and not simple test your ability to remember facts, cases, and terminology. (However, knowledge of these things may impact your ability to answer these questions.) To study for this section of the Montana Bar exam I would highly recommend covering procedures for filing, researching, presenting in court, and follow-up steps for contracts, torts, constitutional law, criminal law, evidence, and real property, as all of theses areas will be covered in this section of the exam. You may also find it beneficial to review past legal briefs, sample cases, and to go through your procedural notes from these classes.

The next section of the Montana Bar Exam is the Montana Essay Examination, and will count for 25% of your total score. Because of the new structure that the Montana Bar Exam will be taking on in 2006, you will only have to respond to four essay questions in this section as opposed to eleven essay questions. To prepare for this section of the exam you will need to review Montana law and federal laws. I would recommend requesting the study guide from the Montana Bar Association that will give you the structure and elements that the testing administrators will be looking for in this section. Because these elements probably will change from year to year, it is important to request this information right before you begin studying for the Bar Exam. I would also recommend using past Montana Essay Examination questions to practice composing essays. These questions are available either through Bar Examination preparation courses, or through the Montana Bar Association Testing Administration.

The third section of the Montana Bar Examination is the Multi-state Essay Examination, and it is one of the new sections that has been added to the 2006 exam. It will count for 25% of your total score. It will consist of seven essay questions, and it will be administered in one three hour block of time. The focus of this section will be on your ability to identify important legal information in the question, and your ability to apply your knowledge of both Montana laws and legal procedures as well as federal laws and procedures to the situation presented in the question. The examiners will be examining your ability to reason, your ability to apply your legal knowledge, and your ability to come to a reason-based conclusion. Because the Montana Essay Examination already covered some legal areas of expertise, this essay examination will focus its attention on several different areas of legal expertise including: business laws, family laws, federal civil procedures, and wills and trusts. To study for this section it is very important to go over current Montana laws, and make yourself aware of new changes in Montana legislature, as well as reviewing procedures related to each of these areas. In addition to taking a Bar Exam prep course, I would also recommend reviewing Montana Codes which can be found on the state of Montana’s website.

The final section of the Montana Bar Exam is the Multi-state Performance Test. It will only make up 15% of your total score, and will test your entry-level legal skills. You will be given access to a file and a closed library of legal information. You will have two questions to answer. Your job will be to evaluate the questions and determine what legal information you will need to prepare your case. The purpose of this section is to test your ability to produce a usable legal artifact from the information that is provided. To address your question you will need to produce, for example, either a memo to the client, a brief, or a contract. Your ability to determine exactly what legal artifact that will need to be drafted will also impact the score that you get. This new element provides examiners with a broader understanding of your legal abilities, and is a better way of determining if you are ready to practice law in the state of Montana. To study for this portion of the Montana Bar Exam I would highly recommend reviewing your procedure notes, especially those that deal with preparing contracts, briefs, and other legal documents.

Review of Study Tips

If you want to pass the Montana Bar Exam you will need to study the appropriate topics, procedures, and structures. Because the Montana Bar Exam is undergoing a major overhaul in 2006 it is also important to make yourself familiar with the new elements of the exam, and to prepare yourself for the testing conditions. To do this, it is highly recommended that you take some form of a Bar Examination preparation course. The University of Montana offers a great prep course that will not only provide you with past exams, but it will also be able to run your through several trials of the exam to help prepare you for taking the real thing. You may also want to supplement this physical prep course with a correspondence, multi-media prep course. Look for independent study courses that offer practice tests, and that have already conformed to the new testing structure. To further aid in your study, I would also recommend implementing study sessions at home that review procedures, terminology, and statutes. Practice drafting contracts, briefs, memos, etc. based on cases you find in the newspaper, or in your textbooks. Also ask a local law firm if you can work for them as an intern so that you can practice your skills in real life situations. Learning theories for adults have shown that adults learn better when they can see how concepts are applied in real life, and when they are actively participating in the learning situation.

All of these study tips should help you to pass the bar exam, but remember it will take more than just a single cram session the night before the exams. To realistically prepare yourself for the Montana Bar Exam you will need to devote at least one full month of heavy studying every day in order to concrete the knowledge needed to pass this test, so make sure that you prepare yourself adequately before taking your $450 exam.

Good Luck!

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