SHOULD YOU DO YOUR OWN BAR APPEAL?

If you are reading this before the results are released, you’re are too worried or just morbidly curious.

The release of Michigan Bar Examination results is a time frought with joy and anguish. Not everyone gets the news they want. But before you start reading though your study materials again, you need to consider your choices. The Michigan Board of Law Examiners has a procedure that allows those candidates who did not pass the Michigan Bar Examination to appeal the results of their essay scores. This procedure is found in Michigan Court Rules 9.1 et seq. See http://coa.courts.mi.gov/rules/documents/7RulesForTheBoardOfLawExaminers.pdf for the exact rules and procedure. As of the publication of this piece, Michigan’s passing score is still 135 out of 200 (67.5%).

Assuming that you did not pass the bar, you first need to consider whether you should do an appeal or not. As a rule of thumb, if you need more than 10 raw points, a successful appeal will difficult. Raw points are the points derived from the essay scores before they are calculated with your MBE score. The formula used to equalize the MBE and Essay scores is as follows: Raw Score from all 15 essays x 4/3 = adjusted score. The adjusted score is then modified by the ‘curve’ determined by the Board of Law Examiners. In February 2009, this curve added approximately 5.66 points to the adjusted raw score. By the way, that formula is not disclosed to the public. By calculating your adjusted score, you should be able to determine how many raw points (i.e. extra essay points) you need to boost your score to an overall score of 135.

If you are within 10 points, then you need to look at your individual answers to see if you were undergraded on any of them and, if so, by how much. This requires you to objective review your own scores and determine whether you addressed the question and how well you did so. You have to be critical and objective to do this best.

The next part is tougher. Now you need to look at the Model Answers from the Michigan Bar Examination to see what it was the graders were looking for. This is tough because sometimes, the model answers are not entirely clear on how points are awarded.

With your questions identified and your arguments ready, writing the appeal is more about substance than form. If you feel strongly about the questions you are appealing, make the best argument you can. Don’t make it personal, but focus on the objective arguments.

Though I have written over 100 appeals, I never forget the fact that you are entirely qualified to write your own appeal. I strongly encourage you to look over your results, look at the model answers and make your case for more points. This can be your first case. This is the exception to the rule that a person that represents him or herself has a fool for a client.

The answer is ‘Yes’. You should do your bar appeal. There are no filing fees, it gives you insight into your results if you are not successful and you certainly could win. I know there is no sweeter victory.

If you’re not feeling that love for doing your own appeal, I am happy to review your scores and results. Call my office with any questions.