The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute
The Multistate Performance Test (MPT) has been praised as the most redeeming part of the otherwise unredeemable bar exam because it most aligns with what new attorneys do in practice. It has also been praised, along with other performance tests, as a useful teaching tool throughout the law school curriculum. This article builds on prior scholarship about the MPT by analyzing the MPT as a tool for teaching and testing legal writing and professional communication skills.
The new insight that this article brings is that the testing aspect of the MPT tends to engulf the teaching aspect; understanding both of these attributes of the MPT and how they complement one another enhances the efficacy of the MPT as a teaching tool. To get the most out of the MPT as a bar taker or a law teacher, view the MPT as a legal writing assignment stuffed inside a teaching tool that is then stuffed inside a time-pressured test. To help convey this layering, you might think of the MPT as a legal writing Turducken, which is a layered dish with “a chicken stuffed inside a duck that’s then stuffed inside a turkey.”
From the outside, the MPT is a test—a timed test. That’s the turkey part of the Turducken. But somewhere inside that test is a decent legal writing assignment. That’s the chicken part of the Turducken. And the chicken is pretty great for teaching legal writing skills! Because these two layers currently clash more than they complement each other, we suggest connecting the two with thoughtful teaching. That’s the duck—a rich, juicy layer of pedagogy that can keep the testing turkey from overwhelming and compromising the benefits of the legal writing chicken. This article deconstructs the MPT by examining each layer, with the goal of teaching bar takers to develop best legal writing practices while also preparing for a time-pressured test of “minimal competency.”
The article also offers serving suggestions! The National Conference of Bar Examiners recently announced that it plans to remake the Uniform Bar Exam into a performance test, so the last part of the article details how to improve the MPT to better assess bar takers’ professional communication skills and practice readiness.