The Multistate Performance Test (MPT) is a lawyerly exercise that requires examinees to complete a task that is outlined in the memo. In order to complete the task, students must critically evaluate and analyze information provided in the file and the library. The MPT is worth a significant percentage of an examinee’s overall score on many bar exams. For example, if you are in a Uniform Bar Exam state, the MPT is worth 20% of the total score. Do not be surprised if the bar examiners ask you to write a persuasive brief as one of the MPT exercises. Students were given 90 minutes to write a persuasive brief 27 times in last 16 sixteen years.
Five Tips to Improve Your Persuasive Brief on the MPT
Since persuasive briefs are so highly-tested on the MPT, it is worth it to acquire some good strategies for answering these types of MPT questions! Below are five tips to improve your persuasive brief writing on the MPT.
1. The task memo and/or guidelines will tell you how to format your persuasive brief.
The task memo will tell you whether you have to write a persuasive brief. The memo may tell you how to structure your brief or it may tell you to consult the guidelines provided to see how to format your brief. Generally, the guidelines are on the page following the memo.
Your brief should always include a legal argument section and a conclusion. The examiners will tell you whether they want you to omit or include a caption, statement of facts, or a short introduction that includes the key facts and a short summary of the legal questions to be answered.
Do not structure the brief the way you learned in your legal research and writing class in law school! The briefs you wrote in law school likely contained many more sections (e.g., table of contents, procedural history, etc.). Your persuasive brief will be much shorter and contain less sections.
2. Craft strong headings that apply the rule of law to the facts.
As a general rule, if the MPT includes guidelines regarding how to write your headings, follow the instructions provided. For example one of the MPTs from July 2012, Ashton v. Indigo Construction Co., instructed examinees to write headings in complete sentences that apply a specific rule of the law to the facts and even provided the following examples of proper and improper headings.
- Example of a proper heading: The defendant’s garage that sits 15 feet from the curb fails to comply with the setback requirements of the homeowners’ association and should be removed.
- Example of an improper heading: The court should compel the defendant to remove all non-complying construction from the property.
Make sure to pay attention to any guidelines you are given in your MPT memo.
3. Use persuasive language in your persuasive brief.
Keep in mind that the purpose of a persuasive brief is to convince the trier of fact to reach a particular outcome. To write a strong persuasive brief, use verbs of action and concrete nouns that create a clear image in the reader’s mind.
4. Distinguish cases, but do not argue both sides of an issue.
Examinees often fall into the trap of approaching a persuasive brief the same way they would approach an objective memorandum. When writing a persuasive brief, make sure to acknowledge any case law that does not support your argument by distinguishing the cases in the library from the facts of your case. However, be careful to avoid arguing both sides of an issue (e.g., starting sentences with “on one hand” or “on the other hand.”).
5. Write the legal argument first!
Whether or not timing is your Achilles heel, it is best to write the legal argument first and then proceed to the introduction/statement of facts and conclusion. It is often difficult to discern the key facts of the case until you have identified the legal issues that need to be discussed.
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