I have been spending a lot of time lately talking to students, friends (many who work for bar providers), and other lawyers about how they felt about their bar review process. Many have mentioned to me that, in hindsight, they don’t think they selected the right bar provider for them. Instead, they selected the bar review course that happened to have a table in their law school hallway or a course that they knew someone else had taken.
To be honest, at the time I signed up for my bar review course I didn’t really know I had any options for my bar prep. And I know I am not alone. Many of us don’t actually select the right bar provider for us—based on our needs, the state bar we are sitting for, or how we study.
I argue, that this is a mistake. Not all law students are the same. Not all bar exams are the same (and likely won’t be for a long time, even as more states adopt the Uniform Bar Exam).
So why do we think we can just pick a bar review provider without considering whether that bar review provider is right for us?
Some law students may not even realize that there are bar review options out there! Sure, there are the large commercial courses that most are familiar with. But technology has opened the door for new bar review providers to jump on the scene—offering remote courses both online or on mobile devices (your iPad or iPhone). And these providers may offer students more flexibility or other review models, which will fit best with their needs. I am not arguing that one provider is necessarily better than another. Remember: Bar review providers are offering different products. So before you commit to a bar review provider, you should think about your needs and research your options.
To help get you started, here are some things you should consider and look into when selecting a bar review provider.
How are the lectures delivered?
Want to sit in a classroom (or hotel ballroom) and listen to live lectures with professors? There is a bar prep program for that. Prefer to sit in your own home and watch lectures online? There is a bar provider for that too. Ask the bar providers questions! And not just general questions, but questions relating to the location where you are planning to take your bar prep course.
How much flexibility do you want in your study schedule?
Want to be told what to do for 8 to 10 weeks of the summer or winter? Or would you prefer more autonomy and flexibility with your schedule? What if you don’t have the full prep period (typically two months) available for study? Make sure your bar provider can support a shorter or more flexible study period.
How much money are you willing to spend?
Let’s be honest: We all are worried about money at the end of law school. And fewer law students are being hired by big firms that will pay for bar prep. So if you are concerned about the price tag of some prep options, do some research! There are more alternative options out there than you think, many at lower price points.
Remember, you can put together the right prep program for you!
You may realize that you need some additional MBE help outside of your bar review provider. So you may want to consider adding a multiple-choice prep program to the mix (see my review of AdaptiBar, for example). Or you may have very specific concerns about writing, leading you to choose a provider that offers a lot of feedback or to hire a one-on-one tutor to help you. Although the single bar preparation package may work for some, it may not work for everyone. The key is to really think through what will work for you.
When do you need to make this decision? Well, NOT in your 1L year!
Some bar review providers encourage you to sign up for a bar review course in your first year. I would recommend that you wait—for a number of reasons.
First, you may not even know which state’s bar exam you are going to take! Each bar is different and you want to pick the prep that sounds best for the requirements of that jurisdiction. Second, you haven’t learned enough about how you take legal tests to determine what is the best way to help you prepare for the biggest legal test of them all! Third, you have no idea what your financial situation will be at the end of law school (whether you are looking at taking out a bar loan or if you might have a firm helping you pay for bar prep). Cost should definitely be a consideration.
Instead, wait until your third year. Try out different provider’s tools if you can. The MPRE is a great opportunity for this, as many providers will let you try out their MPRE prep for free (to win you over for bar prep).
With a little thought and some research, you can make the best decision for you as you go into your bar prep.
Do you have any other recommendations for selecting a bar review provider? If so, leave them in the comments.
Be sure to check out the Bar Exam Toolbox Resource Directory for a list of trusted tutors and bar review programs that we recommend.
Check out these other helpful posts!
- Get Your Bar Admission Paperwork Together.
- Get the MPRE Out of the Way!
- Know Your State Admission Requirements.
- Know Your Graduation Requirements and Sign-up for Bar Electives.