Bar Appeals

Recent statistics show that less than one-third of bar appeals ultimately are successful.

MCR 9.3 gives an applicant a second bite at the apple. Under this rule, the Michigan bar examiners will consider an appeal for a candidate who did not pass. Our office believes applicants are fully capable of writing their own bar appeals.

The difference this office brings to a bar appeal is an honest appraisal of a candidate’s prospects on appeal and over 23 years of experience. Timothy A. Dinan has been writing bar appeals since 1994. He has been an Adjunct Professor of Bar Preparation at Michigan State University since 2009. Prior to that, he was an Adjunct Professor at the University of Detroit Mercy and was the writing director at Bar Bri of Michigan from 2004 to 2014. Tim has presented at Michigan State College of Law, Thomas M. Cooley Law School and Wayne State University School of law.

Every year this office considers appeals for candidates who do not want to sit again for the bar examination. We have a thorough and discerning criteria for any potential appeal. Our firm is the only one with an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell since 2005 and that has been recognized by Michigan Super Lawyers since 2009 for his administrative law and appeal practice.

Our Appeal Process

Because a bar appeal can be an important step in your legal career, this office carefully screens candidates for their chance to be successful at the appeal. We first scrutinize the test and the Examiners’ Analysis to determine where possible appeals may exist. Possible points come in many forms. Tim breaks down the test and Examiners’ Analysis into projected point components; he then compares his analysis to the candidate’s answers. Please understand that more likely than not, a submitted test result will not meet our standards for writing an appeal.

Tim Dinan provides estimates to candidates where points may be achieved and the likelihood of success on appeal. His ability to analyze tests comes from over twenty years of reading thousands of examination answers, working with over 2,000 candidates who have not passed the bar examination and systematically tracking where points are awarded. As a professor and private tutor, Tim knows how to analyze writing styles to maximize points received on appeal.

After breaking down the model answer and the questions, Tim personally reads over the candidate’s submissions. By reviewing the typed answers and score results, this office can make an accurate prediction of where there may exist opportunities to appeal the score. We share this information with the candidate informing them of which questions should be appealed and why. This office’s philosophy is that this information not only helps the candidate whether to appeal or not, but helps them decide which attorney would best serve their needs. We do not (nor do we feel any lawyer should) charge a fee to review a failed test. We know you need support and honest feedback after not passing the Bar.

Step 1: Test Memorandum and Initial Draft

If the review yields the possibility of a successful appeal, the client can retain us and then we begin the work. This first thing done is the production of a Review Memorandum for the candidate. We are the only law firm that takes the time to create this memo. This memo spells out our opinion of the candidate’s performance on each question and whether it will be appealed or not. The Review Memorandum gives the candidate a better understanding of why a question did or did not do well during the last grading session. This feedback helps the candidate understand how he or she performed on the test and why a question will or will not be appealed.

After the Review Memo has been prepared and sent to the candidate, the actual drafting of the bar appeal begins. This office prepares a first draft which encompasses the major arguments to be made in the appeal. In this draft, areas of law which need to be researched are identified and the arguments to be prepared from the materials to assert the candidate’s position are developed.

Step 2: Editing, Research, and Refinement

The editing process then begins. This office employs independent counsel to review the first draft of the appeal. This is done to make sure the grammar, writing and spelling of all portions of the appeal are correct. Since the appeal is a reflection of the candidate, nothing less than perfection can be accepted in the presentation. The independent counsel also offers criticism, insight, encouragement, and suggestions or rewording the arguments and presentation of the law. We consider the expense of an editor for your bar appeal to be a necessary and worthy investment into the quality of the final product. Our editors are former clerks from the Supreme Court of Michigan or Michigan Court of Appeals. Their knowledge of the law and the decisions, upon which many Michigan Bar Examination answers are based, is important to the high standards of research which this office employs. The draft is re-edited by our administrative staff in developing the final working draft.

Step 3: Candidate Editing and Approval

The final step in the process brings the candidate into the picture. Prior to receiving the final draft by the candidate, the appeal has been read through at least three times. The candidate is asked to look at the working draft as a fourth or fifth revision of the original draft. The reason the input of the candidate is needed is simple: This is a reflection of the candidate, a reflection of you. If you are not happy with the final product, then we are not doing our job. The candidate’s reading of the working draft is also important to ensure that we have accurately transcribed the candidate’s answers in the references to it throughout the appeal. It is an important quality control measure. The more eyes which look at an appeal, the less likely any mistakes will be published to the bar examiners.

The final review by the candidate can be done either at this office or forwarded to the candidate by e-mail for greater efficiency. Once the final draft has been approved, the appeal is then forwarded to the Board of Law Examiners for their review and regrading. The Candidate will receive the final draft in the mail.

Step 4: Receiving the Results of the Appeal

The bar appeal will be considered by the Michigan Board of Bar Examiners. While their process is not published in the court rules, it is understood that the appeals are read by the examiners themselves, not the graders.  This means that a second source will review the bar exam results to carefully consider the reasoning behind the appeal. You can expect to hear from the Board of Law Examiners as late as one month prior to the next bar exam or as soon as one month after the appeal has been submitted.  This is dependent upon the number of appeals submitted and the overall scores among other factors.

Should the Candidate Do Their Own Bar Appeal?

Doing your own bar appeal is encouraged by this office.  The candidate should think of it as their first trial.  It is one of the few times that a candidate can submit official documents without needing a law license to publish them.  Like any other endeavor, the candidate should make the best impression in your appeal.  This means careful preparation, research and knowledge of your final product and how it is going to be perceived.  Admittedly, there is little published material about writing bar appeals.  There are websites and listservs which have samples of formats and appeal forms.  Many candidates do so every year and are successful.

We prepare bar appeals for those candidates who do not feel comfortable preparing their own bar appeal, do not feel they are objective enough about their own test results to present an effective bar appeal or do not have the time due to work and family commitments.  This office encourages candidates to consider their options carefully and remember there is no sweeter victory than the first one they win for themselves.

Do not hesitate to call our office with your questions about the Michigan Bar Examination, bar appeals or bar preparation.

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