Writing Edge






Mark W. King

Mark KIng and Vivian Dempsey hugging photo
Mark King and Vivian Dempsey

When I think of Vivian Dempsey, three words come to mind:

Precision – A great deal of law must be top-of-mind for the bar exam. Vivian has fine-tuned the essential law for the essays to precisely what is needed, with no extraneous material taking up precious space on the hard drive between your ears.  Her strategies for the essays and the Performance Tests give you the confidence to approach written work with the purpose and accuracy of a surgeon’s scalpel. Every word in Vivian’s material is meticulously chosen with one goal in mind: a passing score on the bar exam.

Enthusiasm – Vivian’s energy is infectious and uplifting.  She is equally enthusiastic in her approach to all subjects, making it impossible to tell which, if any, are her personal favorites. The subjects change each week.  The positive life force Vivian puts into her sessions remains a constant from the first week through the last.

Integrity – When I signed up for Vivian’s program, I thought she was going to be good. She exceeded my expectations. Vivian delivers more than she promises.  She gives you the clear and direct feedback you need, and never coddles you into a false sense of security.  Vivian’s strong, consistent adherence to her principles helps you make the changes you need to make in your approach if you want success on the bar. Her genuine concern for every student’s success clearly shows in all that she does.

Doing everything Vivian asks is hard work. It is also a sure way to walk into the bar exam with the confidence that is earned through careful, accurate, and vigorous preparation. 

It would be impossible for me to say enough good things about Vivian Dempsey, or to thank her enough for everything she did for me.


Aimee Zeltzer

"I was out of law school 22 years and admitted in New Jersey and New York but the California Bar exam was an “exam that really beat me down”. Vivian gives you a simple and easy to follow method for the PTs and Essays. She also tells you exactly what you need to memorize. Best of all she will teach you how to think like she thinks so even if you don’t know the answer you still display the analysis that California bar examiners really want to see. Vivian also takes the time to encourage you, talk to you, explain things to you, and help you come up with a plan that works for you so you will be prepared for the bar exams days no matter what they come up with! The best thing is not to resist the process and let Vivian guide you to success. In one of my journal entries I wrote, “I am thankful for my tutor Vivian Dempsey, the Rolls Royce of bar tutors! If you want to “end the nightmare” and move on with your life I highly recommend Vivian.

I highly recommend Vivian Dempsey if you are a repeater, or an attorney from another jurisdiction—or both."

Ed Polatschek

"The key to passing the bar is having all the information regardless of topic at your fingertips. You can take a course that will give you 35 pounds of information and try to learn it. Or you can take this course and truly learn how to pass the bar.

In this course you develop: (1) An understanding the Bar Exam; (2) How to take a part the Essays and PT Exams; (3) Build your skills to answer any topic or issue that comes across your desk on exam day. (4) This training significantly impacts in a positive way your ability to address the MBE questions.

This course allowed me to pursue my dream. I passed the bar because of this course. I did another course before discovering this course. I was just a number with them. Here, you are a person and Vivian is ready to work with you. I am truly grateful for this course and Vivian’s assistance."

T. Burch

Keys to success: 

1.  The “Approach” -- Everyone has a different way of preparing for the bar exam.  However, to be successful, you must be in a position to understand what the State Bar is looking for in the Essay answers and Performance Test responses and GIVE IT TO THEM.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Vivian's “approach” is honed in part from her experience as a Bar grader and years of teaching her class.  You either embrace the “approach” or you are wasting your time taking the class.  The approach works!

2.  Practice -- The approach emphasizes practicing in real time what you are going to see at the exam so you are not overwhelmed.  The course emphasizes putting down on paper for the grader a coherent, WELL REASONED answer that shows you have a decent grasp of the law and can take a position and argue it well.

The class is INTENSE – but in a good way.  There are no shortcuts here – you have to study and then practice many Essays and Performance Test questions to be in a position do well.  And there is homework – but it is part of the approach aimed at putting you in the best possible position to succeed on the exam.

3.   Confidence -- I thought Vivian also dealt with the “mental” approach side of the exam – and while being brutally honest she also BUILDS CONFIDENCE.  Not an easy thing to do.  Do not underestimate the mental side of the equation – you may know the law but if your head is in a bad place you will likely not make it. Vivian helps put you mentally in the right frame of mind to succeed.

4.   Conclusion -- I cannot recommend Vivian’s course highly enough.  Once you take the course or review her draft Answers to the February 2009 bar, you will see I wrote this endorsement trying to emulate her “Approach”.

Finally, I was asked to be a bar grader AFTER taking Vivian’s course and PASSING – perhaps the ultimate endorsement.

David Yengoyan

"The thing that makes the bar exam so overwhelming is the volume of information that you are accountable for at any point in time during the 3 day exam.

When you are hard pressed because of the volume of material you can not think clearly. After a few failed attempts, I enrolled in Vivian's course and instantaneously, concepts that were once so foggy were made so simple. Her materials, such as her outlines and law quizzes,are succinct and to the point. She takes the minutia out of a Bar-Bri outline and through her years of studying bar exam essays, her outlines emphasize repeated issues tested on the bar exam.

Her materials let you  walk into the exam with confidence, ready to handle any issue thrown your way. Combine this with her hands-on essay approach, model answers--not those written by bar exam passers, but model answers that are the pinnacle of answers, ones that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court could probably not even write in one-hour. She gives you the perfect answer.

Not to mention her patented "can not go wrong" Performance Test approach and you will be good to go on the written side. While she does not go into detail about the mbe, her study schedule allots adequate time to do mbe's and review mbe outlines for nuances not tested on the essay portion. This combined with the writing demands forces you to throw yourself into the material, but to overcome failed attempts at the bar exam, their is no other alternative, you must work very hard and Vivian's course demands that.

There is no worse feeling than failing the bar exam because you have invested so much time and money. I failed the test three times, but the satisfaction seeing your name on the pass list makes it all worth it. Vivian's course will get you there. At this point, it is the best investment you could make."

Karina Tiwana

Accepting responsibility does not mean beating yourself up. Repeated failures probably boil down to one for more of four things. But, if it is ANY of these--and you don't fix it--you will fail again.

Orit Moskalensky

I was Vivian’s number one skeptic, and now I am her number one supporter.

Michelle Cormier

The more time I've had to reflect on the whole process without the clenched fist and gut of worrying about the results, the more I realize what an incredible person and amazing teacher Vivian is.

Vivian is a former bar grader and I can say only that she knows exactly what she's talking about, knows exactly what she's doing, and is a deeply dedicated and passionate instructor.

Over the course, Vivian supplies study materials and administers and grades weekly bar exams with serious and substantive comments (a stark contrast to my usual grade of somewhere between 75 and 85 without another mark on the page from BarBri). If I bombed an essay on a given week, Vivian would explain exactly what I needed to do differently to have passed. If I aced one, she would explain exactly what I did correctly.

With her methods of how to go about answering questions in every subject, Vivian literally teaches you how to write for the California bar.

Vivian also has an amazing technique for the PTs. So methodical, so logical, so drillable and learn-able that I called my dad at lunch break on day 1 and said that the hard part was over for the day and I was ready to just knock out the PT that afternoon.

A good deal of my confidence came from the invaluable experience of reading and dissecting loads of PTs (a portion of each lecture was set aside for special attention to PTs -- I would say it would be a safe
estimate that we did 2 a week in class and had at least 1 assigned to read over the course of the week) and writing 9 PTs and receiving detailed and always constructive criticism on the finished product. But the criticism and practice would be greatly lacking without Vivian's painstaking breakdown and instruction regarding her methods on how to attack the PT's.

Beyond that, Vivian is a caring and strict instructor.  She takes a personal interest in her students at a level completely unimaginable in nationally run review courses.  She was constantly available and accessible for private questions and/or personal rants. I called her and held her ear for 20 minutes after Day 1 of the exam. Finally, although she was my critic, she was also my ardent cheerleader. It is clear that she wants her students to pass, and to my mind and from my experience, gives them the tools necessary to do so.

After failing, you never know whom to trust and it can
feel terribly unnerving to walk away from the supposedly tried-and-true-works-for-most-people cookie cutter classes. But from very shortly on into the first class, I felt like Vivian was pulling the scales from my eyes. I saw a whole new world, if you will, a whole different approach.

I will always be grateful to her for believing in me and for cheering me on while pushing me to master her methods. I send along only the highest recommendations to anyone thinking that the "one-size-fits-all" approach is not working for him/her.

And to any who take her class -- DO WHAT VIVIAN SAYS. IT WORKS!

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Mahesh Bajoria This is the best course I have taken. Try this course for yourself and see the difference it can make. I wish I had taken this course the first time I took my Bar Exam."
Nicol Garzon As an attorney trained in a civil law system, The Writing Edge helped me learn the underlying materials very quickly and made me confident about taking the bar! Vivian works extensively with each student, giving individualized focus and detailed feedback. A definite MUST if you did not attend law school in the U.S.

Amy Van Sickle

I have referred 2 repeat takers to you. I told them both that they are wasting time taking the bar without your help. You were (are) amazing.

Thomas Dillon

I found this quote helpful when I would get down on myself for the bar:

‘The galleries are full of critics. They play no ball. They fight no fights. They make no mistakes because they attempt nothing. Down in the arena are the doers. They make mistakes because they try many things. The man who makes no mistakes lacks boldness and the spirit of adventure. He is the one who never tries anything. He is the brake on the wheel of progress. And yet it cannot be truly said he makes no mistakes, because his biggest mistake is the very fact that he tries nothing, does nothing except criticize those who do things.’

--  David Shoup 22nd Commandant U.S.M.C. 1960-1964

It said to me that as long as you never quit you never real fail. Thank you again for your constant support to the finish line.

Judy Ruud

After 20 years of legal practice in two other states, and having successfully passed those bar examinations on the 1st attempt, I returned to California. The California bar is unlike any other that I had taken, and despite taking another bar review course, I missed passing by a few points--based on my written answers. Several practicing attorneys who returned to California after practicing elsewhere told me they had the same challenges, and all suggested I take Vivian's course which focused on answering the SA questions. I took the course and passed the examination.

I attribute my success largely to Vivian's course, which helped me write short outlines on the myriad of subjects tested, and helped me properly answer the written questions."

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Andrew Atagma

The Writing Edge was more expensive than the standard Bar preparation course, but it was money well spent. Vivian's guidance provided a solid game plan on how to approach the exam, and most importantly, the confidence in knowing I was well-prepared. I took the course immediately after graduation and passed the California Bar right out of law school.

Barry Brents

I cannot thank you enough for preparing me for the California bar exam. I selected your course for a number of reasons. I needed a lot of help with the essays and performance test and your course focused in these areas. Also, I was working full-time and had a very limited amount of time to study for the test. I had a little over two weeks off before the exam and your course offered hope that I could still adequately prepare for the bar exam.

Clearly, I made the right choice. By focusing on only the most tested concepts I was able to study the substantive law in a manner that was both efficient and effective. With your course I wasn’t wasting my time trying to memorize a fifty page outline. Another key aspect was your feedback on my practice essays. I wrote out innumerable practice tests in each subject and reviewing your feedback on each was invaluable to improving my performance.

Finally, your coaching and motivation throughout the course helped me through. You made yourself available outside of the weekend course schedule to review and provide feedback whenever I needed it. It was a very intense period that I will never forget, but I cannot describe the satisfaction and gratitude that I felt when I learned that I had passed the exam. I have recommended your course to several friends who are taking the exam and would recommend your course again without hesitation. Thanks again.


Capri Maddox

Where do I begin to thank you? You were there for me in the beginning of this bar exam journey and stood with me until the very end. Today I stand proud as a member of the State Bar of California because you stood behind me. Your commitment to helping me during this season will help my family and future generations enjoy a better quality of life.


MMC, Boalt Hall 1999

I highly recommend Vivian's method of bar study. I was a demoralized second time taker from a pretty good law school in need less of an understanding of the substantive law, but rather, an APPROACH. Vivian gives you just that. Her method helps you focus on what the bar graders look for-- she gets you to cut to the chase and in so doing, maximize your score on each part of the written exam.

The crux of her approach is that the Bar Examiners only test a discrete group of topics under each area of law-- she emphasizes these (she's tracked what's been on the exam over the years) and helps you study smart by playing the law of averages and getting you to nail the big ticket areas of law.

The other great thing her class does is force one to practice writing essays and PTs. You write tons over the span of her course. I had time problems the first go-around, and with the constant practice in Vivian's class, I actually finished a few questions early the second time. Also, after writing nearly 100 practice essays, the bar examiners strategy of wearing you out with their 3-day affair is almost laughable, or at least manageable.

Another great thing about the course is Vivian herself. She's a regular Witkin's full of law. She's also exam-wise, meaning she really knows the inside and out of the exam. Her PT clinic is excellent and she really works to demystify them. Really, Vivian's just plain cool. She is dynamic and energetic, and Lord knows energy and dynamism are essential when studying contracts or civil procedure for the second (or more) time. She'll give you the confidence you need to slay whatever demon may be vexing you by reminding you at every turn that you can pass.

I supplemented her course with PMBR, as she doesn't teach the MBE, but her review of the substantive law definitely helps beat that part of the exam as well.

As someone who just passed using her approach, I honestly think it's a must do.


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Sam K. Dinghra

Just to give you some of my thoughts--first, just the structure of the class alone built up my confidence so much for the exam that taking the exam for me became just another day in Vivian's class. One of the really positive things about the class is that you spend one day a week taking the 3 essays and the 1 PT after a lunch break (just like you do on the 1st and last day of the bar). Therefore, you are put into the actual exam environment with all the other students around you. As you go through the course, you will see how much this will help you. When the actual day of the exam comes along, it will seem just like another practice day.

Secondly, Vivian's materials are outstanding. I previously took BARBRI, and a big difference was that BARBRI provides you EVERYTHING that could possibly relate to the area of law in each subject, and, in only a cursory manner. Vivian on the other hand, has condensed the subjects to manageable chunks of law to know, and she only gives you the areas in each subject which will come up on the exam. Further, she goes into the necessary level of depth for those condensed areas that is expected the bar examiners (BARBRI didn't do this).

Thirdly, Vivian provides excellent training for the PTs. This was an area that I thought BARBRI didn't spend enough time. PTs are obviously important as they account for around 30% of your score. She teaches facts about the PTs that other bar courses don't (likely because they don't know some of the things she does), and her approach to doing the PTs is right on track. You will see that PTs can only come into one of two types of formats, and through the course, you will practice writing extensively in both formats. The PT will literally become easy for you by the time you take the bar, and, as silly as this sounds, it may even be kind of fun to write.

Lastly, as a past bar grader, Vivian teaches you into preparing your exam answers in the format which the bar graders prefer to see (easy to read, underlined key words, headings, etc.). She knows what they are looking for, and how they want to see your answers presented to them. She also provides extensive feedback to you when she grades your papers, and is always available to you for any questions or help. One other thing I liked is that her feedback is accurate--she won't give you a higher score to make you feel better--she will give you an honest score (my scores ranged in
class from 55 to 85).

I wholeheartedly recommend the class for the above reasons. To get the most out of the course, follow her instructions to a "T" (i.e., write all the essays, make tapes, practice MBEs, and exercise), and you will pass.


Albert Siu

I would like to extend my deepest gratitude for all the help and advice you have given me. Taking your course was the best investment I ever made. You are a miracle worker for bar repeaters.

I owe everything to you because you have changed my life for the better. You gave me tremendous confidence, faith, and insight to help me to conquer the bar exam. In essence, you are my Superhero!!!

Once again, I am eternally grateful for everything you have given me. I'll be in touch and I look forward to seeing you again. Thanks a million!!!

I am forever in your debt.


Jenifer Grundy

I can't begin to express my joy at seeing my name on the pass list - especially after not seeing it the last time. You could have heard me yell all the way from Georgia (I recently moved here from Colorado). I credit your course with giving me the tools I needed to pass the essay and PT.

It's especially difficult for an attorney who has been practicing as long as I have to remember to "show your work" and write like a law student. Your method, which I nicknamed "exploded outlines," worked exceptionally well!

Your course is well-prepared and extremely well-adapted for attorneys who don't have much time to devote to studying. You stress the important stuff and dump the junk that other bar courses fill people's heads with. Your writing tips were outstanding - and I used many of them.

The tapes were invaluable, however, I really think participating in your live classes in LA every Sunday were critical to my success. Your lectures and discussion brought home all the key points.

Thanks again for your assistance, and your patience in dealing with this commuter student.


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Bruce Strothers

I am so grateful to you for all the help and
"tough love" you gave me to pass the Bar the first time.

My $3,995 investment for your class, was hands down the best investment I have made in my 30 years on this planet.

I am recommending your course to other people with the caveat: "If you want to pass the California Bar, go to Vivian Dempsey's Course, let go of all your baggage and what you think you know, and do EXACTLY what she says. I emphasize "Exactly". If you fail again, it will be because you didn't do EXACTLY what she said to do. Let yourself go. Be brainwashed completely. Be Viv. Live Viv. Pass.


Erik Kvam I just wanted to thank you very much for the excellence of your bar preparation course which certainly made the difference in my passing the February 2002 exam. Having taken the BAR/BRI course with an unsuccessful result last summer, I appreciate the intelligence of your approach, and its focus on learning the substantive law, analytical technique and writing technique needed to pass. My only regret is that I did take your course the first time around. Again, my keenest thanks for your superior method and teaching.


Suzanne Greene

It has now been one year since I swore into the California Bar.

This morning, I happened to be talking to some neighbors while walking my dog. When they discovered I was an attorney, they asked me for some advice. At first I was afraid they wanted actual legal advice, instead they told me the story of their son who has failed the California Bar four times. Immediately, the first two words out of my mouth were, "Vivian Dempsey."

I hope you know how much I appreciate you and your course. A month does not pass by in which I do not mention your course to someone who has failed, or someone who knows someone who has failed the bar.

Take care and thank you again.


Gus C.
Barrera ll
The Writing Edge course provides its students with strong direction and focus in answering the essay and PT sections of the California Bar Exam. Vivian Dempsey teaches her students how to analyze and answer problems under test conditions in a way that provides the graders with what they need to see for a passing answer. As a student your receive personalized attention in the form of small classes, extensive critiques, and the knowledge and insight of a former bar grader.


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Scott Biasotti Having participated in another review course and The Writing Edge, I can say without hesitation that The Writing Edge was by far the best review course available, and certainly a key factor in my success on the Bar! Vivian's expert teaching methods helped me narrow my focus to those issues that were absolutely necessary to pass and avoid those issues that were not. Her energy and enthusiasm was highly contagious and gave me an added level of confidence which proved invaluable come exam time. She really wants her students to pass, and, in my opinion, has developed just the right system to do it.


Three of the best things I took from your course are the following: First: Most professors are brilliant, and know the subjects they teach very well, but few can explain a difficult concept in a comprehensive manner. You have the gift and ability to do that-- explain intervening and superseding causes as if they were simple. Second: Your recommendation that all subjects be put to memory is invaluable. Third: The way you boil down your essay writing technique to the ABC's makes it difficult to fail. So I thank you for these gifts of knowledge that you have passed on!


Nguyen Cong Binh I belong to a minority group and English is not my native language but, with the help of Vivian, everything is possible. To her, my sincere thanks for a great help.


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David Uthman Vicki is good at diagnosing your strengths and weaknesses and then focusing you on your areas of need. She is an insightful coach who can get you over that last hurdle.


Frederick L. Goss Vicki Dempsey's enthusiasm and stamina carried the whole class along. She was concerned about each one of us. I feel the performance test method taught by Ms. Dempsey is far superior. Her method emphasizes getting an overview of the forest before settling in to look at individual trees.


Greg Berk If you've taken one of the big Bar review courses and failed, don't think twice. Nobody understands the performance and essay sections of the Bar like Vivian Dempsey. Be prepared to work your ass off -- and pass.


Pat Scott If I take the best bar review course I will pass the bar exam. Here, I took the best bar review course. Therefore I PASSED THE BAR EXAM!


Mark Zimmerman I certainly give your course the utmost credit for giving me the confidence and training for what often seemed such an impossible task.


Stan Smith If you want to pass the Bar this is the right course to take. Quit taking courses that don't get you there.


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