We don’t mean to be discouraging by posting this before Michigan bar applicants find out about results. However, you’ve probably heard about the possibility of “appealing” a failing Michigan bar exam essay score and you may be curious about how it works – for your own sake (if you’re nervous about your score!) or the sake of your friends that will decide to use the appeal process. This blog post will try to clarify what a Michigan bar exam appeal is and how it works.
What is a Michigan bar exam appeal?
A Michigan bar exam appeal is basically a second shot at passing the Michigan bar exam without having to actually take the bar exam again. Note that the appeals process only allows you to appeal your essay scores (not your MBE score).
Essentially, what happens is this: If you find out that you did not pass the bar exam, you will be permitted to request your essay answers from the Michigan Board of Law Examiners. The Board of Law Examiners will then send you all of the exam questions, the model answers to those questions, as well as your essay answers. They will also send you strict formatting requirements for your appeal as well as the deadline for when the appeal is due. It is imperative that you follow the directions given by the Michigan Board of Law Examiners very closely.
After you receive your essays, you will have a chance to review them and compare them to the model answers. If you feel that any of your essays were graded unfairly or inaccurately you can choose to challenge those grades. You can either write the appeal yourself or have someone write it on your behalf (including us! – through our law firm).
How do I format my Michigan bar exam appeal?
After you choose which essay questions to appeal, you will generally be instructed to divide your appeals up into five “books.” Book 1 will contain appeals of essay questions 1-3 (if any), Book 2 contains appeals of essay questions 4-6 (if any), (Book 3 contains questions 7-9, Book 4 contains questions 10-12, Book 5 contains 13-15). Important: Check the instructions that are sent to you to ensure that you follow them closely – we are only saying how it has traditionally been done in the past! You will send all of these “books” of your appeals to the Michigan Board of Law Examiners at whatever address they instruct you to send them to. Then each book will be sent to the grader who wrote the question(s) you are appealing, and that grader will decide whether your score should be increased.
Thus, if you appeal questions 2 and 3, those will be in Book 1 and the member of the Board of Law Examiners who wrote those questions will re-grade your essays and see if he or she thinks you deserve more points. Note: The grader this time around will not be the same person who initially graded your essay answers. It is essentially a second set of eyes to review your work.
We have a detailed post on how to write a Michigan bar exam appeal for those who are interested in appealing their scores themselves. We generally recommend that you appeal answers to several essay answers (at least 7 essay answers) rather than just appealing one or two essay answers. This gives you your best shot at winning some points back. However, this also makes writing an appeal a time-intensive and laborious process.
Note that when you write an appeal, you will generally make one of two arguments: Either you will argue that your answer was very similar to the model answer and was not awarded enough points or you will argue that your answer a relevant point of Michigan law that was not in the model answer that you feel deserves points. Your arguments should be persuasive, have case law to back them up, and be respectful.
Appeals are not necessarily easy to win. I have seen students ask for 15 points back and get 2 or 3 on appeal (which is sometimes all they need!). However, I’ve also seen students ask for 20 points and get 0 back on appeal. For this reason, we do not think it is worth it for everyone who failed the bar exam to appeal their score – especially if several points are needed to obtain a passing score. (See this post on “Should I Appeal my Michigan Bar Exam Score?” if you’re wondering if you have an appealable score).
We will be posting more about Michigan bar exam appeals in the future, so stay tuned. Good luck to those still waiting for results!
Looking to Pass the Bar Exam on Appeal?
Check out our information on Michigan bar exam appeals here. JD Advising founder and her partner founded the Heidemann Jabbori law firm, which wrote all of the passing appeals in Michigan for the July 2018 Michigan bar administration.