Anatomy of a New York Bar Exam Essay Issue™


The following is an excerpt from materials we utilize in our Ultimate and Paced programs for the New York Bar Exam essays. We've developed this method over the course of 15 years and have helped many individuals pass the the New York bar exam, especially repeaters and foreign-educated exam candidates. Our Anatomy of a Bar Exam Essay Issue™ includes the foundational concepts we utilize in our New York bar exam essay programs. In May 2015, it was announced that New York will administer the Uniform Bar Exam starting July 2016. As we've taken both the New York and Uniform Bar Exams, we know and recognize that the New York bar exam essays and Uniform bar exam essays are very different and much of these materials, developed over 15 years, will become moot in July 2016. Accordingly, as we simply want to help as many people as possible over the course of the July 2015 and February 2016 New York bar exams, we are making these materials publicly available. Of course, we still retain our intellectual rights in these materials (please see our Terms), but you are free to view the materials from out website and share links with whomever you like.

Please keep in mind, these materials were developed to be used in conjunction with our Ultimate or Paced programs for the New York bar exam. Simply reading these materials without structured practice and feedback will significantly diminish their effectiveness. Yet, we recognize that some industrious individuals will benefit greatly from utilizing these materials independently. However, if you have a demonstrated essay deficiency or need (e.g., low scores on law school essay exams, bar exam repeater, or foreign educated bar exam candidate), then we humbly ask you to consider our Ultimate or Paced programs for the New York bar exam (read what other have said about our program too)

Anatomy of a Bar Exam Essay Issue™

To aid you in better understanding the feedback for this essay and future essays [this guidance is given to individuals after they complete their first essay in either our Ultimate or Paced programs], below is a brief description of what every issue on all New York bar exam essays should contain. Please note, we utilize your first essay as a diagnostic measure of your essay writing ability and this is why we provide this information after you completed your initial essay. The feedback for your essay submissions will often refer to these concepts. Although this is a relatively short write-up, the importance of this information in relation to your essay performance cannot be overstated. Please note, these principles are subject neutral—regardless of the subject being tested on a particular essay, the principles described below will apply to all issues for all subjects.

The “Essential Issue Components”

Cumulatively, we refer to the discrete parts of any New York bar exam essay issue as “The Essential Issue Components.” The Issue Components are “Essential” because they should be present in each and every issue discussion on any issue. The Essential Issue Components include the following:

  • Issue Statement
  • The Statement of the Law
  • Analysis
  • Conclusion

You may be familiar with IRAC, CIRAC, or other such issue organizational methods on bar exam essays. The Essential Issue Components are similar in nature. However, we find the traditional approach to IRAC or CIRAC to be unhelpful when an individual struggles with an individual part of each method. It’s overly simplistic, and not instructive, to direct an individual to simply Issue– Rule– Application– Conclusion- an issue. What if an individual struggles with “Application”? How can they improve without further instruction or guidance? This is where the Essential Issue Components differ from the traditional approach. Instead, the Essential Issue Components approach provides instructive guidelines to ensure that each part of your issue discussion is sufficient.

The Importance of Issue Organization and Issue Discipline

Prior to describing each individual Essential Issue Component below, a brief note on the importance of Issue organization should be provided. In writing issues on your New York bar exam essays, it is important to maintain strict “issue discipline” by consistently and predictably including The Essential Issue Components in each and every issue discussion. Such issue discipline can also be maximized by utilizing predictable organization for the grader (remember, a grader will be reading many answers pertaining to the exact same issue discussion). The most important organizational technique to apply to your issue discussions is “proper paragraph form”—presenting each Essential Issue Component as separate, independent paragraphs. With these organizational tenets in mind, each Essential Issue Component will be briefly described.

Issue Recognition via the Issue Statement

Begin your issue discussion by identifying the issue raised by the call of the question via an Issue Statement. An Issue Statement should be narrowly tailored by identifying the legal concept at issue and the key operative facts upon which the issue will turn. Note, simply restating the question will rarely suffice to properly identify the issue.

The Statement of the Law

The Statement of the law follows the Issue Statement. However, simply indicating to an individual to just “state the law” or “state the rule” is not especially instructive. Instead, always consider and remember that your Statement of the Law should include 2 parts: 1) define and explain the legal concept(s) at issue and 2) provide those tests, elements, standards, and/or exceptions that measure such concepts. If your statement of the law for any issue is missing either part, then your statement of the law will be incomplete.


After the Statement of the Law, present the Analysis. Fundamentally, Analysis is the application of the relevant law for the issue (stated in the preceding Statement of the Law) to the pertinent facts. However, again, “application of the law to the facts” is not especially instructive. We’ve developed a more instructive approach via our Framework for Foolproof Bar Exam Essay Analysis™. Carefully review the accompanying handout.


After the Analysis, the last Essential Issue Component for any bar exam essay issue is the Conclusion. Remember, ultimately, bar exam essays are questions that need to be directly answered. A Conclusion should be a reasoned statement that resolves the issue and answers the question presented. Do not hedge or “fence-sit” with your Conclusions. Instead, take a reasoned position that is consistent with and based upon the preceding analysis.

Remember, for each issue on every essay, your issue discussions need to include all of the above-described “Essential Issue Components.”

How to Utilize the Essential Issue Components with Future Practice Essays

Fundamentally, in all future practice essays, you should be mindful and aware that each issue should address and include each Essential Issue Component. If necessary, provide mental or written reminders (e.g., on scrap paper or on your outline) to yourself to include essential issue component for each and every issue. Again, over time, this approach should become second-nature and such reminders will likely be unnecessary. Another useful technique to integrate the Essential Issue Components into your answers is to frame an outline of each essay around the Components for each issue. If you find yourself struggling with an individual Issue Component, then refer to the above descriptions. Remember, if Analysis is especially troublesome for you, then be sure to utilize the Framework for Foolproof Bar Exam Essay Analysis™.

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