By Sabrina DeFabritiis
In anticipation of Massachusetts’s adoption of the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), Suffolk Law is incorporating into the first-year legal writing program a Capstone, modeled after the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). Historically the Massachusetts Bar Exam has been comprised of the Multistate Bar Exam and 10 state specific essays. July 2018 will be the first administration of the UBE in Massachusetts and for the first time applicants in this state will be required to complete the MPT.
To better prepare our students for this challenge, beginning in Spring 2017, all first-year students will complete a Capstone at the end of their Legal Writing and Research course. Much like the MPT, which tests an applicant’s ability to use fundamental lawyering skills to complete a task that a new lawyer should be able to accomplish, the Capstone is a closed universe exam that requires students to harness the fundamental skills they learned in their first-year legal writing course to successfully complete a legal assignment similar to what may be required of them as a summer associate or judicial intern.
Like the MPT, the Capstone includes instructions, a file and a library. Students will have 60 minutes to critically read, outline and write a comprehensive and well organized answer to the legal problem. Unlike the MPT, which usually requires applicants to discuss multiple issues, the Capstone will only require students to address one issue. Students will have to use their reading comprehension, factual analysis, legal analysis, problem solving and communication skills—all of which are fundamental skills that students should have developed in their first-year legal writing and research course.
Incorporating a Capstone that assess skills learned in the first-year and showing students that these same skills will be tested on the Bar Exam has multiple benefits. In addition to providing a holistic conclusion to their first-year legal writing and research course, the Capstone serves to introduce students to a significant component of the Bar Exam well in advance of when most would even begin to think about that daunting exam. Creating this synergy of fundamental skills may allow students to anticipate future learning and more easily transfer the skills they learned in law school to help them succeed on the Bar Exam.
Sabrina DeFabritiis is a Professor of Legal Writing and teaches bar preparation courses at Suffolk University Law School.