Two essay skills, and three “starter” practice essay questions

At the bottom of this page are two basic diversity essays

First, read this: develop your get-it-down-on-paper skill

There are at least two skill sets that must combine in order for a student to do well on an essay exam. The first is knowing the law. This is what most students focus on. They think that memorizing or understanding the law is enough. That is not correct. Why? Because there is a second (and perhaps more fundamental skill), which is being able to get your essay down on paper in an organized & cogent manner. Law students tend to ignore this skill. But this second skill is as important as the first skill. Maybe more important. Why is the second skill arguably more important? Because all that matters in your grading is what you put down on paper. Thus, even if you know the law and relevant facts (skill # 1), you won’t get a good score if you can’t get it down on paper (skill # 2). This involves developing your skills doing a basic IRAC. See here for a handout on IRAC/FIRAC/IFRAC.

With that in mind, I highly recommend that you spend time practicing your basic get-it-down-on-paper skills by starting off with some really simple essay questions. These are basic starter questions that I might ask in class, really basic hypos. But as you’ll see, even when you know the answer, it’s not always easy to get it down on paper in IRAC format.

Although I try to avoid sports metaphors, think of it this way. A football player’s first game can’t be the Superbowl, right? Instead, the player has to go to training camp, play in the preseason, and later the regular season and playoffs. Then and only then might the player be ready for the Superbowl.

Final exams are kind of like the Big Money Game, right? Like athletes, students need to have their own kind of training camp, and basic essay fact patterns serve the crucial function of developing this fundamental get-it-down-on-paper skill.

How can you develop this skill? Start with a class hypo, any class hypo. Turn it into an essay. Or take a simple hypo that you come up with (keep it simple!) and turn it into an essay.

Give it a try. You’ll be surprised how difficult it can be to write up a simple essay if you’ve never written a practice essay before. You’ll see what I mean — it’s one thing to know the law (skill # 1), and it’s another thing to get it down on paper in IRAC format (skill # 2). The best time to realize this is now and not in December.

With that in mind, start off with these two essays, both initially prepared by 2013-14 ALI Cristina Morales. I revised them further in 2016. I’m happy to look at your analyses. As always, bring two (2) hard copies to my office, one for you and one for me.

Essay one

Deborah, a prominent businessperson who was born in and who still lives in Orlando, Florida, falsely accused Peter, a highly successful international lawyer, of embezzlement. One week later, Peter filed a state-law defamation suit against Deborah in the United States District for the Middle District of Florida seeking damages of $100,000, claiming that Deborah damaged his reputation and drove away all of Peter’s clients.

Peter was born in Russia but became a U.S. citizen in 2005. He has lived in a beautiful condominium in Manhattan, New York near his New York law offices since 2002. In 2009, Peter bought a vacation condominium in Miami Beach, Florida that he visits several times a year. Peter goes to his Florida condominium every summer. He plans to eventually retire to Florida.

Is subject matter jurisdiction appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1332? If authority is split, use the majority rule.

Essay two

Deborah, a prominent businessperson and citizen of Norway, falsely accused Peter, an international lawyer and citizen of Russia, of embezzlement. One week later, Peter filed a state-law defamation suit against Deborah in the United States District for the Middle District of Florida seeking damages of $100,000 dollars claiming that Deborah damaged his reputation and drove away all of Peter’s clients.

Both Deborah and Peter are lawful permanent residents of the United States. Deborah lives in and intends to stay in Ann Arbor, Michigan for the remainder of her life with her family. Peter, after the alleged embezzlement but before the suit was filed, obtained U.S. citizenship, and purchased and moved into a quaint beach house in Miami Beach where he intends to stay year-round rebuilding his business.

Is subject matter jurisdiction appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1332? If authority is split, use the majority rule.

Essay three

Same facts as essay two with the following difference. Peter’s quaint beach house is on the shores of Lake St. Clair in Detroit, Michigan rather than in Miami Beach.

Updated Sept. 29, 2016 (added bold red; previously added bold green).

Updated Sept. 30, 2016 (correcting title since there are now three essay questions).