Law school bar prep classes are a relatively recent phenomenon. As a law student, you may be unaware of the ABA’s role in accrediting law schools and regulating legal education. In 2008 the ABA revised one of its rules and began allowing law schools to offer bar prep courses for credit, with this credit counting towards minimum graduation requirements, and to make such courses mandatory for some or all students. This change spurred the growth of bar prep classes, especially at law schools where bar pass rates are a concern. If your school offers a bar prep class and you’re required to take it, or just considering it, here are some things you might expect. Keep in mind that this is a general overview; your school’s course may vary in the details.
Demystification of the Bar Exam
Remember the LSAT? Part of the value of your LSAT prep – whether you took a course or studied on your own – was simply becoming familiar with the format, structure and requirements of the exam. The same is true here. You start to gain power over the bar exam by getting to know it.
Skills and Practice
You may, quite correctly, think that your commercial bar review course will focus on substantive law. That’s why it’s called review; you’re ostensibly reviewing law you learned over the past three years. Law school bar prep classes are different. In fact, they’re often called “bar preparation” or “bar strategies” courses, and that’s a meaningful difference from “bar review.” The purpose of your law school bar prep course is to hone your test-taking skills and provide opportunities for practice, not to help you memorize the rule against perpetuities.
You’ll build on the skills you already have, then use these skills to support the substantive knowledge you’ll (re-)learn in bar review.
Multiple-Choice Question Strategies
The multiple-choice format may be ill suited to testing legal knowledge, but there’s no getting around the MBE. By practicing and analyzing MBE questions, you should improve your ability to determine the “best” answer. At the very least, thoughtful repetition will help you recognize certain questions and answer them correctly, even if you’re not quite sure why.
What does a passing bar exam essay look like? Is it the same as a law school final exam essay? Should it follow IRAC? You will build on your essay exam writing skills and adapt them to the bar exam.
If many graduates of your law school take a bar that includes the MPT (or a similar performance test, like those required in California and Pennsylvania), this may be included in your course. Like any exam, the MPT can be conquered through test-specific strategies.
Individual attention and feedback
This is one of the most valuable features of a bar prep course. A well-designed course will involve multiple opportunities to practice and – most importantly – to receive personalized feedback. This is the place to make mistakes and learn from them. Are your essays poorly organized? Do you tend to miss subtle issues? Are you consistently misled by certain types of multiple-choice questions? Find out now, improve your skills, and apply these skills as you continue to study for the bar.
Limited Substantive Coverage
In a bar prep class, the substantive law is a vehicle for practicing skills. For example, the course I most recently taught used MBE questions and bar essays on Contracts, Torts and Property. The goal of the course was not to provide a comprehensive review of any doctrinal area. Other courses are structured differently and may emphasize more or different topics. Still, it’s likely that the focus of your course will be on exam prep and exam taking skills rather than substantive law.
Studying for the bar exam is a uniquely stressful period in most students’ lives. The sheer quantity of material, limited time, and serious consequences are guaranteed to stress out even the calmest, most successful law student. A bar prep class may explicitly cover strategies for managing time and stress, while the sheer fact that you’re getting a jump on the bar before graduation helps reduce stress.
Love it or hate it, law school has been your home for the past three years. Taking bar prep on familiar ground with familiar faces – both faculty and classmates — can make it more pleasant.
Remember, no law school bar prep class can replace a commercial bar review course, and no such class is intended to do so. In fact, some commercial bar review companies provide materials for law school bar prep classes, viewing them as complementary, not duplicative.
Whether mandatory or optional, a skills-based law school bar prep class can give you a great head start as you study for the bar.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- When and Where I Studied for the Bar Exam
- Tackling Bar Exam Materials Like a Pro
- What You Can Do Now to Prepare for the Bar Exam
- Can Studying Early Help You Pass the Bar Exam?
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