Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I am Ekakshra Mahajan and I passed the New York State Bar Examination in October 2018.
I graduated from Symbiosis Law School, Pune in 2017 and was conferred with the title of Best Indian Female Law Student 2017 by the Chief Justice of India in a national award ceremony organized by the Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF) and Menon Institute of Legal Advocacy Training (MILAT).
I received a fellowship from Pennsylvania State University to pursue an LL.M. degree from Penn State Law, Pennsylvania, USA. I graduated from Penn State Law in May 2018, took the New York State Bar Examination in July 2018 and returned to India in late July.
Q] Could you give us a synopsis of legal career till date?
I have worked under the 44th Chief Justice of India in the year 2016-17 for a period extending four months. I was a member of the Veterans & Service members Clinic at Penn State Law in my Spring semester, representing litigants in the unique legal issues they encountered.
We handled disability, pensio, and education benefit appeals and sought to influence and develop state and federal legislation affecting veterans and service members.
As a member, I assisted in writing two amici briefs, filed in a criminal appeal by an airman for a visit from the U.S. Air Force Criminal Court of Appeals.
I also assisted in writing a white paper to advocate the addition of Acute Myeloid Leukemia in the list of diseases presumptively connected with Agent Orange exposure and presented the paper to the office of Senator Robert Casey.
I am currently litigating at a state High Court.
Q] Please tell us something about the New York State Bar Examination.
New York is a UBE (Uniform Bar Examination) state.
The UBE is a standardized exam and is uniformly administered and scored. It can be used to apply in multiple jurisdictions which have adopted the UBE. Each state sets its own passing score. So one could transfer their bar examination score to another jurisdiction if they meet the passing score of that state.
The UBE has three components: the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). It is administered over two days.
The first component tested is the MPT which I’d want to simplify and say is akin to a reading comprehension but with fundamental nuances. It is designed to test the application of factual and legal points encompassed within the task assigned.
The MPT entails mastering a lawyering task like drafting an objective memo or a persuasive brief in a time-constrained environment and requires more practice than studying, in stringently timed conditions. There are two 90-minute skills questions tested on the MPT.
The second component is the MEE which consists of six 30-minute questions from the exhaustive syllabus highlighted for the MEE. There are around 16 subjects tested on the MEE. The best method to tackle the MEE Essays is deploying IRAC (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion).
The third component which accounts for 50% of the entire score is the MBE which tests 200 objective, multiple choice questions.
It focuses on seven areas of law (which are also tested on the MEE) and is divided into two 3-hour parts, consisting of 100 questions each. It entails an analysis of the fact situations in the questions and choosing not the correct, but the best answer from the four available choices.
Q] What was your strategy for the exam?
There are three popular Bar review courses which aid in the preparation of the exam. I’d recommend enrolling with any one and diligently following the schedule.
One could self-study but as an International LL.M. student, not too well-versed with the United States legal system, the courses help streamline the syllabus and assist in developing a daily schedule.
Completing the tasks assigned daily takes around 6-7 hours on an average. I’d utilize the remaining time either practicing MBE questions or revising concepts which needed more understanding. I’d allot around two hours every day to review everything covered in the past before withdrawing for the day.
Q] How did you handle the preparation while pursuing the LL.M. degree?
I didn’t have to. I started my preparation in the third week of May after my Graduation Ceremony. The schedule for most courses begins around that time. One could prepare simultaneously with their LL.M. Degree but if you have too many credits, then it might get too strenuous.
For New York, it is mandatory to complete a minimum of 6 credits in any of the subjects tested on the Bar Examination during your LL.M. course.
It might be a wise decision to opt for subjects which are more technical to fulfill the credits requirement and simultaneously ready the subject(s) for the Bar Exam. It is advisable to opt for MBE subjects since they are tested on two components, the MBE as well as the MEE.
Q] Please suggest some important resources for the exam.
My main source was the material provided by the Bar Review Course. I wouldn’t suggest studying beyond the Outlines provided. They’re exhaustive and cover every potential area of law capable of being tested in the exam. Practice. Practice a lot of MBE questions.
It is important to understand how the examiners design the questions and the area of law being tested. Get your hands on past questions tested on the Bar exam and spend a substantial amount of time attempting and understanding them.
Scrutinize the answer key after attempting the questions even if you’ve answered the questions correctly. Your reasoning might differ from the one provided by the examiners.
Follow IRAC for the MEE portion. You could approach your law school Legal Writing Professor to understand how to deploy the methodology or peruse through online resources.
The NCBE website has a database of all previous year MPT and MEE questions tested on the Bar Exam. Since New York became a UBE jurisdiction only in 2016, I referred to the websites of states which began using the UBE before New York.
The MPT requires the skill of time management more than your ability to learn. So, I’d suggest practicing all sorts of different MPT’s tested on past exams so that nothing comes as a surprise on the day of the exam.
I’d strongly suggest against banking upon MEE predictions released by third-party websites. They are misleading and often lead examinees astray.
Q] The NY Bar is a very difficult exam: myth or reality?
Nothing is hard if you put yourself to it. The New York State Bar Examination is not a hard exam to take.
It’s just a lot to study in a relatively short time (If you’re taking it right after graduating from law school). Enjoy the process. You will need to invest time and effort. You will need to be patient. It’s a monotonous affair. You will probably spend 16-18 hours per day drowned in your books and your laptop.
But if you consciously try to enjoy it, you’ll end up doing more than you think you can. I’d suggest limiting your conversations with others taking the Bar Exam. Don’t allow other people’s negativity or anxiety creep into your goals. Getting motivated is easy. Staying motivated is the key.
Keep reminding yourself that you’re only getting closer every single day. It’s ok if you wish to take a day off. I’d recommend you do it. It’ll refresh you and you’ll only rebound with a renewed sense of vigour. Believe in the Law of Attraction and just go get it! It applies not just to the Bar Exam but to every endeavor you wish to undertake.
Q] Anything else you would like to tell our readers?
Develop a sense of urgency in these two months you are giving towards preparing. There’s a lot to be done and time passes by quickly. Along with your Bar Review course, have your own weekly schedule. Some subjects might require more time and will need revisits.
For E.g. Secured Transactions is a slightly technical subject and to understand its nuances I had to study beyond the outlines provided by the Bar review course. Subjects which you might have pursued during your LL.M. Course would need a lesser amount of time.
So, weigh your strengths and weaknesses and accordingly allot time. Master the MBE subjects before proceeding to the MEE subjects. You’re killing two birds with one stone, the MBE alongwith the MEE.
To be certified to a department, you need to pass not just the Bar Exam but the New York Law Course, the New York Law Exam which are specific to the state of New York and the MPRE i.e.
The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination which is a two-hour, 60-question multiple choice examination measuring the examinees’ knowledge and understanding of established standards related to the professional conduct of lawyers.
They are administered multiple times during a year so you can decide in advance when you wish to take them.
That’s about it. This is a beginner’s introduction to the Bar Exam. If you decide to take it and wish to seek more information, feel free to write to me at [email protected] and I’d be happy to help. Good Luck!
Interview by Ashwini Chavan.