Academic Success Program

Welcome to Pace Law's Academic Success. As Director, I hope to act as a resource for you from the time you begin law school to the time you sit for the Bar exam.

Our Program offers numerous services throughout your law school years. Our first year program assists students to adjust to the new style of learning and writing. Skills Workshops are offered to all students wishing to master skills essential for law school achievement. Individual skills development, academic counseling, and legal writing assistance are also available.

The upper level program allows students to continue to develop and hone analytical and writing skills that are vital for success in law school and on the Bar exam. Individual skills training and writing assistance, which often focus on Bar Exam questions, are available and encouraged. Our upper level program also includes an intense and thorough Supplemental Bar Program for students to take during their final spring semester.

As Director, I am available to meet with any student on an individual basis to discuss academic performance, academic counseling, Bar Exam related issues, and methods to improve or maintain academic performance.

I look forward to working with you during your journey from law student to Bar applicant to practicing attorney.  Best wishes.

Danielle Bifulci Kocal
Director of Academic Success

Programs

To achieve the twin goals of ensuring academic success and increasing one’s likelihood of passing the Bar exam, the Office of Academic Success offers a variety of programs.

Academic Skills Program

First year students are invited to participate in the Academic Skills Program. Under this program, first year students meet in organized study groups for one hour per week for each of their substantive courses. The study groups are facilitated by successful third year students, referred to as Dean's Scholars, who focus on legal analysis and exam preparation. Through weekly discussions and constant exposure to exam-type questions, students are better able to make the transition to law school learning.

Study Skills Workshops
Study skills workshops are designed to provide assistance to law students as they acquire the skills that are necessary to be a good law student. Each semester, the Office of Academic Success encourages all first year students to attend a series of workshops. The workshops, which focus on study skills, range from briefing to time and stress management to exam preparation. Skills workshops are offered to upper level students as well. Significant emphasis is placed on exam writing and legal writing style.

Individual Tutoring and Mentoring Sessions
Individual skills-mentoring is available to provide additional learning resources to those students who are need additional help in writing and analytical skills. Students with a GPA below a 2.8 are strongly encouraged to meet with either professor on a regular basis. Students who take advantage of this assistance often see a great improvement in their legal writing and analysis and, subsequently, their academic performance.

Principles of Legal Analysis
This course is designed to increase the analytical skills of second year students with an eye toward increasing their GPA and assuring a greater likelihood of success on the Bar Examination. The course is designed to assist students in developing their writing and analytical skills.  Students are required to produce several written assignments, and will receive individual feedback throughout the semester.

Advanced Analytical Skills
Advanced Analytical Skills builds on the analytical, writing and organizational skills necessary to enhance a student’s ability to prepare for the Bar exam. Students will become thoroughly familiar with the format and components of the Bar exam. Students will review and outline some substantive topics, learn methods by which to review the tested areas of law, write outlines, complete practice essays, complete Multistate Performance Test questions, multiple choice exam questions and receive feedback on written answers.

MBE Strategies
MBE Strategies is a class designed to review the most heavily tested areas of law on the MBE portion of the bar exam. Students will learn the law in substantive lectures and then practice the necessary skills by completing MBE questions and having in-class skills sessions.

Supplemental Bar Skills Program (SBSP)
SBSP is a four-week program that runs concurrently with the commercial bar review course you will be taking post-graduation.  SBSP involves four one-hour classes and a minimum of four essays submitted for review. During the sessions, we will be going over test-taking skills and strategies that will help you as you learn the substantive law. On your assignments, you will be getting substantial feedback from two graders, with rubrics that are either directly from the bar examiners, or very similar to the style of those used by the examiners. SBSP has proven to be a very successful program in helping students pass the bar exam on their first try.

First-Year Students

The first year of law school is an experience that is unmatched. While all graduate programs are challenging, law school demands that students embark on a new learning style. The Academic Success Program assists students to make the adjustment to law school learning through several workshops and one-on-one counseling. More specifically, students are encouraged to develop legal writing and analytical skills that are vital for success in law school and on the Bar exam. Assisting students to develop these skills early on often proves to enhance their confidence, ability and law school achievement.

How to be a first year law student (Adobe PDF)
How to be a first year law student (PowerPoint Show)

Elements of Law (Adobe PDF)

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the purpose of briefing?

Briefing has three purposes: (1) to practice dissecting a case, which is vital for law school exam taking; (2) to prepare for class; and (3) to use when preparing a substantive outline.

2. How should I prepare for class?

The professor expects that you read the assigned materials and briefed the assigned cases, which includes identifying the relevant facts, issue, rule, reasoning and conclusion. When preparing, focus on the court’s rationale by making sure that you know why the court decided what it did.

After you read and brief the assigned case, ask yourself the following questions: What was this case supposed to teach me? What did I know about this issue or legal topic before I read this case? What do I know now?

3. How can I synthesize cases and materials for an exam that is three months away?

You will need to create an outline. Outlining will help you understand how all the rules fit together and will be a vital component of your exam preparation.

4. What can I do to adjust to the Socratic Method?

Remember that your professors are not trying to intimidate you or make you feel stupid; rather they are trying to challenge your mind to go further than you thought was possible. As you prepare for class, try to anticipate some questions that your professor may ask.

5. Why does it take me 10 minutes to read one page of a case?

Some subjects are very difficult to comprehend. For example, constitutional law and civil procedure are new and foreign, while torts and criminal law may contain more familiar language and fact patterns. When reading a case that is difficult to understand, use your law dictionary to assist you, but try not to get lost in the details. Instead, ask yourself the following questions: (1) What is this case supposed to teach me, and (2) How does it fit with the case I read yesterday? This will help you understand where the case fits within the "big picture" of the course.

6. Because there is little feedback in law school, how can I determine how I am doing throughout the semester?

To make sure you are on track, attend the Academic Success Program study skills workshops, outline throughout the semester, practice hypothetical questions throughout the semester, and try taking several practice exams during the last month of classes.

7. How do I manage my time effectively?

It is important to determine what works best for you. Do so by setting a schedule and sticking to it. Click here for time management tips.

8. How do I form an effective study group?

You should consider including persons whom you respect and share similar study habits. Try to keep your study group to a maximum of 4 people and include persons who have different strengths. Finally, make sure that the study group sets some ground rules before getting off the ground!

9. There are a lot of students who seem "freaked out" about law school and make me nervous. Should I avoid these people?

Yes; you are in law school to learn and succeed and you do not need to interact with people who will stand in your way. Stay focused on your strategy and schedule without allowing others to affect your goals.

10. Is it normal to feel confused and overwhelmed?

Yes; remember that law school is very different from undergraduate and other types of graduate education. You are responsible for learning a large amount of information and must apply it in a way that is new to you. As with all new endeavors, it takes some time to adjust to the rigors and challenges of being a law student.

Take advantage of the Academic Success Program, which offers study skills workshops and individual tutoring to all first year law students. (If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, contact the Director of Academic Success to discuss your concerns.)

Effective Time Management

In order to achieve academic success, students must become adept at managing both their time and their stress levels.  The Academic Success program has compiled several pointers to help students manage both, and will work individually with any student in creating a study plan or to offer further suggestions for managing stress successfully.

Pointers for Effective Time Management

Make a Plan for Living:

  • Use day planner divided by hours to schedule all of your activities for the day.  Be sure to schedule enough time for everyday things like sleeping, eating, and commuting.
  • Protect yourself from people who do not support your new challenge and goals. Many people do not understand the time commitment required in law school and may think you are ignoring them or no longer want to be their friend.  Explain your new situation to your friends and family to help them see why you will not have as much free time as you used to.  Sometimes it becomes necessary to have less contact with those who are not supportive of you and who do not respect your need to devote a significant amount of time to your studies.
  • Schedule some time daily for a fun activity, like going to the gym or watching a movie.  Schedule larger blocks of time on the weekends for visiting family and friends.

Make a Plan for Studying:

  • Analyze your learning strengths and weaknesses.
  • Focus on difficult tasks during times of the day that you are most productive.
  • Take study breaks every few hours.
  • Review your notes each day, rather than leaving it all for the end.
  • Remember that you should plan for at least two hours of preparation for every one hour of class time.  This does not include the time you will need to devote to reviewing class materials after class, or outlining.

Stress Management

In order to achieve academic success, students must become adept at managing both their time and their stress levels.  The Academic Success program has compiled several pointers to help students manage both, and will work individually with any student in creating a study plan or to offer further suggestions for managing stress successfully.

Pointers for Effective Stress Management

Make a Month-long Time Plan

Using a calendar, mark off days and times you have classes. Then mark off specific days, such as days that you will outline each course and days you will devote to legal writing. You should begin outlining your courses about one month into the semester.  Updating your outlines each week will ensure that you finish them well before your final exams.

Make a Week-long Time Plan

As the semester becomes more and more packed with assignments and exam preparation, focus on a weekly time plan. Don’t forget to include non law school commitments on your calendar. This will help you complete your personal tasks, while you maintain focus on your law school commitments. You should devote at least two hours of preparation time to every one hour of class.

Stress Reduction Tip

Plan some stress reducing activities in your calendar. Everyone needs to take a break from studying sometimes! Be sure to eat well and try to exercise regularly. Even a short walk or run will release a lot of tension.

Being well-prepared for your classes will help reduce stress.  Don’t procrastinate – make a schedule and stick to it, and it will make your semester as stress-free as possible.

Pointers for Reviewing Your Exams

Now that grades have been distributed, you may be wondering what went wrong and some of you are wondering what went right.

The big question is what to do now. There really is no way around it: you need to look at your exams. That may mean coming into contact with a professor who you would prefer never to see again, but that is the way to learn the most from the experience.

You may have a whole host of reasons why you do not want to meet with your professors. So, here are some rebuttals in advance to the top five most common excuses.

Excuse 1: You are embarrassed.
Keep in mind that most professors do not take your grade personally. You shouldn't either.

Excuse 2: You do not want the professor to know who you are.
The professor will be glad that you are motivated to do better, and will be happy to help a student who shows a strong desire to improve.

Excuse 3: You just want to move on.
Putting the past behind you is a good approach; however, you need to nail down what went right and what went wrong so that you can start this semester with a positive frame of reference. There are many reasons someone might not do well on a final exam, and there are different ways for improving based on what needs improvement. For example, if you see that the professor wrote “too conclusory” on your final exam, you will know that you need to work on expanding your analysis section before reaching a final conclusion. Or, if you see that you did not get any points for a particular analysis, it may be because you analyzed the wrong issue, so you know that you will need to work on your ability to spot the correct issues on future exams.

Excuse 4: You are sure you know which questions you did poorly on.
You would be surprised at the number of students who are mistaken about their exam performance. You will not know for sure which questions you did well on and which ones you did poorly on until you look at your exams. Imagine how horrible this semester will be if the things you thought you did right, you did wrong, and you unwittingly repeat those mistakes.

Excuse 5: The exam won't have any comments that make sense to me.
Your exam may not have comments on it, but some professors will supply a “sample answer” or a checklist of issues that should have been discussed. If this is the case, you can compare what you wrote to the sample or the checklist and see what was missing. If your exam has no comments, and your professor did not supply a sample answer or a checklist, you can meet with your professor and get an explanation of how your particular exam was graded.

What exams should you look at?

You should look at those you thought you would do well in but didn't, and, if you have time, look at those you did well in.

How do I go about it?

Most professors will make their exams available during the exam review period, which usually takes place at the start of the next semester. Some professors, however, will require that you come to their office to pick it up and return it to them when you are finished; others will require that you read the exam in their office with them present.

What to look for when reviewing your exam?

1) Look at the point totals to see how you did overall. Did you have trouble with one particular question or did you perform fairly evenly on each question?

2) Look for patterns. Did you do poorly on all first questions/last questions. Did you allocate time well, have initial jitters, or did fatigue set in?

3) Are there certain types of questions you did better on? How did you do on the policy questions? The issue-spotting questions? Multiple choice? What skills should you concentrate on improving?

4) Focus on content. Did you really know the law? Did you state it correctly and thoroughly? Did you apply the facts to the law? Did you come to a conclusion too quickly without first exploring all the possibilities raised by the facts?

5) Use THIS CHECKLIST when reviewing your exams to help pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses on each exam.

Should you talk to your professor?

In most cases, the answer is yes. But, unless there's a mathematical error, don't think that doing that will change your grade. Your goal in talking to your professor should be to understand what you did right and what you did wrong--not to argue.

Before you set up an appointment to discuss substance, make sure you have read your exam and have formulated questions in advance. Check you answer against your outline to see if you can spot missed issues. Tell your professor which issues you found after the fact and see if your list is complete. Pick a question and describe the type of answer you gave. See what else the professor wanted in the answer.

What else should I do if I think I really bombed?

The Academic Success Program can work with you to improve your exam taking skills. Talk to Danielle Bifulci Kocal about what you think went wrong, and they can help you develop a study strategy to correct the problem so that you do not repeat it on your finals the next semester.

Preparing for the Bar Exam

Bar Exam Checklist

LIST OF REQUIREMENTS TO BE CERTIFIED FOR ADMISSION TO THE NEW YORK STATE BAR

  • (1) Achieve a passing score on the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE);

  • (2) Complete an online course in New York-specific law, known as the New York Law Course (NYLC);

  • (3) Take and pass an online examination, known as the New York Law Exam (NYLE);

  • (4) Take and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE);

  • (5) Comply with the 50-hour pro bono service requirement; and

  • (6) Satisfy the Skills Competency Requirement

BEFORE TAKING THE UBE 

Make Sure there are no Holds on your Account on PacePortal

  • If there is a hold on your account, it may prevent you from graduating and being certified to take the bar exam

Comply with the ABA Requirements for Juris Doctorate Graduates Applying to Take the Bar Exam

  • Pace Law graduation requirements comply with most instructional, credit hour, and course of study requirements of the ABA, however, Pace does not place a limit on how many online or distance credits may be applied toward graduation. The ABA caps the allocation at 15 credits. 
  • https://www.nybarexam.org/Eligible/Eligibility.htm#B

Complete and Submit the Application Provided by The New York State Board of Law Examiners

Request Testing Accomodations Before the Application Period Closes

  • Applications for test accommodations must be received in the Board’s office no later than November 30th for the February exam and April 30th for the July exam

Turn Law School Certificate of Attendance Form and Handwriting Specimen Form into Registrar

THE NEW YORK LAW COURSE

  • The NYLC is an online, on demand course which reviews unique aspects of New York law
  • The NYLC consists of approximately 15 hours of recorded lectures
  • You must complete the NYLC prior to applying for the NYLE
  • You must complete the NYLC up to one year prior to or three years after passing the UBE

THE NEW YORK LAW EXAM

  • The NYLE is offered four times a year typically in March, June, September, and December and you must apply at least 30 days before the exam
  • You must complete the NYLE up to one year prior to or three years after passing the UBE

THE MULTISTATE PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY EXAMINATION 

  • Take MPRE is offered in March, August, and November
  • Not all states require you to pass the MPRE in order to be admitted to the state bar
    • Maryland, Wisconsin, and Puerto Rico do not require it 
    • Connecticut and New Jersey do not require it, if you successfully complete a course in Professional Responsibility
  • The exam can be taken either before or after the bar exam. The score is valid for 3 years in New York.
  • http://www.ncbex.org/about-ncbe-exams/mpre/

THE 50 HOUR PRO BONO REQUIREMENT

  • Hours may be completed in another state or country
  • Qualifying pro bono work must be completed before you submit your Application for Admission to the appropriate Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court

THE SKILLS COMPETENCY REQUIREMENT 

Added by the Court of Appeals in December 2015

  • This requires applicants to establish that they have acquired the necessary skills and professional values needed to competently practice law

This can be Fulfilled by Satisfying One of Five Options

  1. Law school certification of competence in skills and professional values
  2. Law school certification of credit acquisition
  3. Pro Bono Scholars Program
  4. Apprenticeship
  5. Practice in another jurisdiction

http://www.nybarexam.org/rules/rules.htm#520.18

BREAKDOWN OF THE REQUIRED EXAMS

Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination

  • Two hour and five minute multiple choice exam
  • Comprise of 60 multiple choice quesitons with 10 sample/test questions
  • Passing score is 32 out of 50 (85%)

New York State Law Exam

  • Two hour, open book, multiple choice exam
  • Online
  • Two hours to complete 50 multiple choice questions
  • Tests New York law that is unique and different from the general law of the UBE
  • Passing score is 30 out of 50
  • If you fail, you must repeat the NYLC and NYLE


Uniform Bar Exam (266 out of 400 for a passing score in NY)

  • Multistate Essay Examination (MEE)
    • Six essays which are 30 minutes each
    • Tested on: Business Associations (Agency and Partnership; Corporations and Limited Liability Companies), Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Family Law, Real Property, Torts, Trusts and Estates (Decedents' Estates; Trusts and Future Interests), and Uniform Commercial Code (Secured Transactions)
    • Counting for 30% of UBE score
       
  • Multistate Bar Examination (MBE)
    • 200 multiple choice questions
    • Tested on: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property and Torts.  Beginning with the February 2015 bar examination, Civil Procedure will also be tested
    • Counting for 50% of UBE score
       
  • Multistate Performance Test (MPT)
    • Two 90 minute writing exercises
    • Counting for 20% of UBE score

 

Related Links

Bar Exam Information:
www.barexam.org
www.ncbex.org

New York Bar Exam:
www.nybarexam.org

New Jersey Bar Exam:
www.njbarexams.org
www.judiciary.state.nj.us

Connecticut Bar Exam:
www.jud.ct.gov/CBEC/

Dictionary and Other Writing Resources:
www.thefreedictionary.com
This includes an on-line dictionary, thesaurus and other great writing tools.

CALI-Computer Assisted Legal Instruction:
www.cali.org
Includes multiple choice questions on all first year subjects.

Suggested Readings

Academic Success Blog: http://academicsupport.blogs.law.pace.edu/

Orientation to Law School

  • Gary A. Munneke, How to Succeed in Law School (2008).
  • Ruta Stropus and Charlotte Taylor, Bridging the Gap between College and Law School (2009).
  • Helene Shapo and Marshall Shapo, Law School without Fear (2002).
  • Herbert N. Ramy, Succeeding in Law School (2006).
  • Dennis J. Tonsing, 1000 Days to the Bar (2003).

Researching case law, statutes and other sources

  • Christopher G. Wren and Jill Robinson, The Legal Research Manual: A Game Plan for Legal Research and Analysis (1999).
  • Morris L. Cohen and Kent C. Olson, Legal Research in a Nutshell (2007).

Writing style and grammar

  • Gertrude Block, Effective Legal Writing for Law Students and Lawyers (5th ed. 1999).
  • Richard C. Wydick, Plain English for Lawyers (5th ed. 2005).
  • William Strunk, Jr, The Elements of Style (2007).

Critical reading, writing and analysis

  • John C. Dernbach, Writing Essay Exams to Succeed (2010)
  • Ruth Ann McKinney, Reading Like a Lawyer (2005).
  • Kimm Walton and Lazar Emanuel, Strategies & Tactics for the First Year Law Student (2004).
  • Charles Calleros, Law School Exams (2007)

Bar exam preparation

  • Steven Friedland and Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, The Essential Rules for Bar Exam Success (2008)
  • Suzanne Darrow Kleinhaus, Acing the Bar Exam (2008).
  • Kimm Walton and Steve Emanuel, Strategies & Tactics for the MBE (2006).

Staff

Faculty

Danielle Kocal

Director, Academic Success

Faculty

Stephanie Desiato

Associate Director, Academic Success