Conflict of Laws on the Multistate Essay Exam: Highly Tested Topics and Tips

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Here, we give you an overview of Conflict of Laws on the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE). We will reveal some of the highly tested topics and give you tips for approaching a Conflict of Laws Multistate Essay Exam question.

Note that Conflict of Laws is the least-tested topic on the Multistate Essay Exam. It is the only subject that is not tested by itself—it is always tested with another subject.

When Conflict of Laws is tested on the Multistate Essay Exam, it is generally tested in a predictable way.

In this post, we give you tips for approaching Conflict of Laws on the Multistate Essay Exam and we reveal some of the highly tested issues in Conflict of Laws questions.

Conflict of Laws on the Multistate Essay Exam

1. First, be aware of how Conflict of Laws is tested

Conflict of Laws is not tested often

As noted above, Conflict of Laws does not appear very frequently on the Multistate Essay Exam. These are the dates of the last six times it was tested:

  • July 2017 (combined with Civil Procedure)
  • February 2017 (combined with Family Law)
  • July 2012 (combined with Decedents’ Estates)
  • February 2012 (combined with Civil Procedure)
  • July 2011 (combined with Family Law)
  • February 2009 (combined with Civil Procedure)

Conflict of Laws is not tested as a standalone subject

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) has announced that Conflict of Laws will not be tested as a standalone subject. It is always combined with another subject.

Conflict of Laws tends to be combined with Civil Procedure, Family Law, or Decedents’ Estates

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Since 1995, Conflict of Laws has been tested with the following subjects:

  • Civil Procedure—10 times (52.6%)
  • Family Law—7 times (37%)
  • Decedents’ Estates—2 times (10.5%)

2. Be aware of the highly tested Conflict of Laws issues

The Examiners tend to test several of the same issues repeatedly in Conflict of Laws questions. You can maximize your score by being aware of these highly tested issues. (We have a nice summary of these in our MEE One-Sheets if you want to see all of them and have them all in one place.)

Some of the highly tested Conflict of Laws MEE issues include:

Civil Procedure

Civil Procedure is frequently tested with Conflict of Laws on the Multistate Essay Exam when Conflict of Laws appears. Here are some of the “favorite” Conflict of Laws issues: 

  • Klaxon doctrine: A federal district court sitting in diversity must apply the choice of law approach prevailing in the state in which it sits. So, if a state claim in New York is brought by a New York plaintiff against a Washington defendant in a federal district court in New York on a diversity basis, the federal district court must apply New York choice of law rules when determining which state’s law to apply. This makes sense because it provides no incentive for the parties to forum shop.
  • Transfer to a more appropriate forum: This is tested frequently when venue is tested. The federal court has authority to transfer a case to another federal district for the convenience of the parties and witnesses and in the interest of justice. The new forum must have subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction. The court will apply the law of the transferor forum. (Since the case was properly brought in the transferor forum, it makes sense that the court will apply the law of the transferor forum.)

Family Law

There are a variety of issues that tend to be tested with Conflicts of Law and Family Law—and many of those issues overlap with the subject of Family Law. Here are some:

  • Recognition of marriage: A marriage which is valid under the law of the state in which it was contracted will be valid elsewhere unless it violates a strong public policy of the state that has the most significant relationship to the spouses and the marriage. Common law marriage is virtually always tested when this principle is tested. So, know that if the marriage is recognized by the state where the couple entered into the marriage, it will be recognized by all other states.
  • Full faith and credit: A state must recognize final judgments of other states so long as the judgment is on the merits and the other state had jurisdictionAn example of this is that a divorce decree must be granted full faith and credit.
  • Many of the other tested topics are learned in conjunction with Family Law.

Decedents’ Estates

Conflict of Laws has only been tested with Decedents’ Estates twice. Here are the two most recent issues that have appeared (both appeared on the 2012 exam):

  • Personal property: postmortem (i.e., after death) distribution of personal property is governed by the law of the state where the decedent was domiciled at the time of his death.
  • Real property: postmortem distribution of real property is governed by the law of the state where the real property is located.

3. Don’t worry too much about providing a historical background

One mistake that students sometimes make when approaching a question that tests Conflict of Laws on the Multistate Essay Exam is to provide a historical background. They discuss the “vested rights” approach and give an overview of various policies. We suspect students do this because this is how many commercial courses teach Conflict of Laws. It is not bad to provide a policy analysis and sometimes a question will call for it. However, a history lesson is usually not expected and not necessary. So, instead of writing an introductory paragraph that gives an overview of the historical development of the Conflict of Laws field, just stick to the issues being asked about. This will save you time, make your answer look more focused, and maximize the potential points you can earn.

4. Practice! 

Practice is critical for spotting issues involving Conflict of Laws on the Multistate Essay Exam. Below are some links to (free) Conflict of Laws questions and NCBE point sheets. (If you would like to purchase a book of Conflict of Laws Multistate Essay Exam questions and NCBE point sheets from 2000 to the present, check out our MEE books here. You can also see some additional exams on the NCBE website for free here.)

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