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How to write a passing Professional Responsibility Essay on the California Bar Exam

We have received numerous questions on how to write and organize a Professional Responsibility essay on the California bar exam. Generally speaking, you should be spending 10-15 minutes to issue spot (read call of the question, fact pattern, identify issues); 10 minutes to outline your answer (prioritize your issues, determine organization); spend 35-40 minutes writing (discussing relevant issues, focusing on analysis, weaving the the relevant facts within your analysis, etc).

There are two ways in which you can format and organize your PR essay - 1) by ethical duty (i.e., Duty of Confidentiality): your headings will be ethical duties; you may have the same heading more than once; works well when there are several different duties violated or 2) by attorney action (i.e., attorney's failure to show up to court hearing on time): headings will be what the attorney did; organization of essay will generally be chronological; works well when the same duty if violated multiple times (e.g., conflict of interest).

On PR essays, you can include the ABA rule and the CA rules together in your initial rule paragraph. For example, "The ABA states that a lawyer must not represent a client when there is a concurrent conflict. There is a concurrent conflict when: (1) the representation of a client will be directly adverse to another client; or (2) there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited...In CA, a lawyer should not accept representation of more than one client in which their interests potentially conflict."

So, your formatting will look something like:


Rule (ABA)

Rule (CA)

Analysis (ABA)

Analysis (CA)

Conclusion (ABA)

Conclusion (CA)

However, if there is an ABA rule and exceptions and a CA rule and exceptions, discuss them in a separate paragraph using a heading for exceptions.

Why is PR so odd when compared to other essay subjects? Because you may not be given very many facts but you are expected to discuss the rule in full. Multiple violations of the same duty are common, your analysis may not be clear cut, you are making inferences based on a ''reasonable attorney."

Essay tips: stay organized and compartmentalized, but keep in mind you are writing an essay. Use your facts. Reason from those facts. If you don't know a rule, make it up! Do NOT include irrelevant issues or rules. Keep practicing and improving on your weaknesses. Use a skeletal checklist!!

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