SMU Law School prides itself on its broad, diverse, and relevant curriculum and encourages its students to take advantage of the educational richness such a curriculum offers. The Law School is proud to provide a curriculum that makes SMU far more than just a "bar preparation" law school.
Nevertheless, the Law School recognizes that it is in the best interest of each student to understand and take into account the demands he or she will face when taking the bar examination, whether in Texas or elsewhere. This document has therefore been prepared with the goal of providing each student guidance with respect to such demands so that he or she may select courses in such a way as to maximize his or her chances to pass the bar on the first attempt.
Research has demonstrated that the SMU graduates who are most at risk of not passing the bar on the first attempt are those students who graduate with a law school grade point average below 2.5. Within that higher risk group, the most significant difference between those who passed the bar on their first attempt and those who did not is the number of upper-class bar courses taken. Those who passed on their first attempt took an average of more than 8 upper class bar courses, while those who failed on their first attempt took only an average of 5.
It is therefore the recommendation of the faculty of the Law School that every student who is "at risk" (i.e., with a law school grade point average below 2.5) or who is close to being "at risk" take an absolute minimum of 8 upper-class primary bar courses. It is also recommended that the courses selected cover as many different bar exam subject areas as possible.
While this document focuses substantially on the Texas Bar Exam, most of the information is applicable to any bar exam. A student not planning to take the Texas bar should investigate the coverage of the bar exam he or she is planning to take prior to registering for courses for his or her second year of law school.
The Texas Bar Examination (TBE) consists of four parts. The relative weight of the component parts are: (1) MultiState Bar Exam (MBE) = 40%, (2) Texas Essays (Essays) = 40%, (3) Texas Procedure & Evidence (P&E) = 10%, (4) Multistate Performance Test (MPT) = 10%.
Important Note: Primary and Supplemental Courses
Courses are designated below as either "primary" or "supplemental" with respect to bar examination coverage. Simply stated, primary courses cover the bulk of the material actually tested on the bar exam in a particular subject area. Supplemental courses are closely related to a bar subject area but generally do not cover the basics. Thus, a supplemental course may not give a student the basic foundation for that particular subject area on the bar exam. As a general matter, supplemental courses should not be viewed as adequate substitutes for the primary courses in terms of their value in bar preparation. While there are many valid justifications for taking supplemental courses, bar preparation should generally not be the primary one.
I. Multistate Bar Exam
The Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) is a full day, 200 question multiple-choice exam administered in all but two states (Louisiana and Washington) and Puerto Rico on the last Wednesday of each February and July. The MBE consists of six subject areas: Contracts, Torts, Constitutional Law, Real Property, Evidence and Criminal Law/Procedure. With the exception of Evidence, the vast majority of the content tested on the MBE is covered in your first-year courses. Several subjects, however, may include questions covered in specific upper-class courses. (In addition to required first-year courses, students may choose to take an additional course in one or more subject areas.)
II. Texas Essays
The essay section of the Texas Bar Examination is a one day test with twelve essay questions covering the following topics: Business associations, including agency, corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies and professional associations; Trusts and guardianships; Wills and administration; Family law; Uniform Commercial Code; Consumer rights, including deceptive trade practices and insurance; and Real property, including oil and gas. There are two (2) questions per subject, except for Consumer Law and Trusts & Guardianship, which have one (1) question each. (Students should take one or more primary courses in each subject area.)
Texas Cross-Over Topics
A "cross-over topic" is one which could reasonably be expected to show up in consideration of another substantive area. For example, there could be an estate tax issue in Wills & Administration, or a bankruptcy or income tax issue in Family law. A cross-over topic will present the sort of tax or bankruptcy implications which a new lawyer might encounter and which are ordinarily covered in law school courses in the essay topics. (Students should consider taking one or more primary courses in each subject area.)
III. Texas Procedure and Evidence
This section of the Texas Bar Examination is a ninety minute short answer/objective test covering: Texas civil procedure and evidence, including jurisdiction; and Federal and Texas criminal procedure and evidence. (Students should take one or more primary courses in each subject area.)
IV. Multistate Practice Exam
The Multistate Performance Test (MPT) is designed to test an applicant's ability to use fundamental lawyering skills in a realistic situation by completing a task which a beginning lawyer should be able to accomplish. The MPT consists of one ninety minute item, in which the examinee is furnished with a file of source documents and a library of research materials to be used in accomplishing the designated task. The MPT requires examinees to (1) sort detailed factual materials and separate relevant from irrelevant facts; (2) analyze statutory, case, and administrative materials for principles of law; (3) apply the law to the relevant facts in a manner likely to resolve a client's problem; (4) identify and resolve ethical dilemma, when present; (5) communicate effectively in writing; (6) complete a lawyering task within time restraints. In addition to Legal Research & Writing and the Lawyering courses, clinics, externships, and a variety of other courses provide opportunities to develop these skills.