Why Gamble on Essay Questions: Letting Essay Call Structures Organize Your Answers – Part 4 – The Causes of Action Call

“The smarter you play, the luckier you’ll be.” Mark Pilarski – Gambling Expert

“You can know the rules of law. You can know IRAC. You can know how to write. You can know all of that . But if you don’t know the Bar Exam itself, you’re “’playing stupid.’” Adam Ferber – Bar Exam Blogger

Each year, there are six essay questions on each of two bar exam administrations – 12 altogether. That’s 60 essays in the last five years, 120 in the last ten years. This might lead you to conclude, even after your bar preparation, that there is endless variety in essay questions. It might lead you to think that your best bet is just opening the exam booklet and reacting to what you see. It might, but if it did, you wouldn’t be playing smart – you’d just be gambling.

Although California Bar Examination Essay Question calls (the tasks assigned to the applicant in each question) vary slightly, in general, there are four call structures that commonly appear. An applicant who has become familiar with each such call structure and has developed appropriate strategies to respond to them will have an advantage on the essay portion of the Exam.

The third such call, I call “the Causes of Action Call.”

In this common call, the term “causes of action,” can be replaced with terms such as “ethical violations,” or “arguments.”

a) Description

The “Causes of Action” Call asks the applicant to list and discuss all causes of action that reasonably arise from the root of the question, often together with all defenses to such causes of action. Alternatively, the question may be “flipped,” and the applicant asked to discuss all defenses (creating the necessity to discuss the causes of action).

This type of question is easier than other types in the sense that each cause of action (and its defenses) can be discussed separately. There is generally no need to discuss one cause of action in connection with others in the question. It is more difficult in that the applicant must identify all causes of action worth discussing and, importantly, omit all causes of action not worth discussing. As a consequence of each cause of action’s complexity relevant to the others, the capable applicant must also assign a tentative weight to each and then apportion answer and outlining time and words accordingly.

(b) Example

“What causes of action might Peter’s father reasonably assert against PLC, what defenses can PLC raise, and what is the likely outcome on each? Discuss.”

(c) Handling the Causes of Action Call

The “Causes of Action” Call often describes facts and situations that are commonly used in law school and bar review courses to illustrate the application of a rule of law. The facts often include particular words that the applicant will recognize as triggering the possible application of the rule or rules. Once the applicant is familiar with the content of the root of the question, he or she can identify these facts and situations and/or these triggering words and link them to the corresponding rules of law.

The analysis should not end there however, since the applicant should anticipate that all identified causes of action will not be weighted equally. The applicant should also anticipate that one or more facts may give rise to the possible application of more than one rule of law. For example, in Question 1 (“Peter and the Power Station”) from the February 2008 examination, the “high voltage electricity power substation” that injures twelve-year-old Peter should trigger consideration of both ultra hazardous activities and attractive nuisances, in addition to negligence.

(d) Samples of Causes of Action Questions at the Office of Admissions, Past Examinations Site

– February 2014: Essay question 5

– July 2013: Essay questions 2, 5, and 6

– February 2013: Essay question 2

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