Bar Prep Advice
While you are settling into classes, and getting used to the law school environment in general, another big decision will be what bar prep course you take. Usually this is done earlier in the semester, with many offers on courses expiring by the end of the Fall Semester. Usually most will ask you put down a small deposit to ensure you are guaranteed your seat for that summer or at least are locked-in to the price that the course is being offered for.
Usually the big-box bar reviews will send their representatives on different days who will put up tables around your law school offering freebies such as highlighters, pens, candy and even a sample of their materials. For those that aren’t taking the bar after the LLM, you can easily chomp on some KitKat, get some spare stationery and move on. But for the rest, it can be a difficult decision because at some point all of the three big box reviews look appealing. As a former Kaplan student rep, I can tell you that its even difficult once you have signed up for a course. You will keep having second thoughts and may question your choice down the road. So here’s to giving you some insight so you can ensure you don’t question your choice and make the right decision by choosing a bar prep course that’s suited towards you.
Yes, choosing a bar prep course is less about the course and more about you as a person. So first, you must honestly ask yourself what you value and prefer. If you are one who enjoys classroom style-lectures, then a course like Themis which offers only online lectures may not be for you. You may then be better off choosing Kaplan which has lecturers come in at 9AM to teach (yes, the struggle to wake up) or even Barbri that offers live on-campus lectures.
There is usually a bit of a difference in the course prices as well, so the live component usually boosts up the price a fair bit. If you are the kind that needs to speak to an actual person, ask doubts and just have the comfort of a professor or instructor during the madness that is bar prep, go for a live course taught by an actual person in front of you. On the contrary, if you are someone who doesn’t mind online pre-recorded lectures, and can be disciplined by being on track with them without the push of waking up each day to go see a lecture in a classroom, then a platform like Themis would make sense for you. Then paying the additional money for the Kaplans and Barbris of the world wouldn’t be the right thing for you.
But you may ask, what about the courses themselves? Again, it sort of boils down to you really. I can speak for Kaplan and for Themis. Not for Barbri because I didn’t use any of their materials. However, you would still decide the premium you put on something like unlimited essay grading. For me this was very important, and always tilted the scales in favour of Kaplan. Kaplan offers unlimited grading which Barbri and Themis do not offer. Themis has about 8 essays which you get to have graded. So you see, if you give a very important weightage to that, then you may want to opt for your courses accordingly. Also, do check (now out of experience) what their re-take policy is and how flexible they are with that. Some of them will offer you a free re-take for the next attempt and so this will considerably reduce your costs in case you don’t clear the exam on the first try.
Also, a good part of your relationship with the course providers is through the regional representatives. Sometimes their behaviour may not reflect accurately on the quality of the courses. These representatives are busy people and are often looking at every LLM student as a potential dollar figure that they can add to their books at the end of the day. In fact, you should use this very aspect of their behaviour to your advantage. Ask them to match up to the neighboring bar course provider. Ask if you can be a student-rep and cut your costs or even get the course for free. Maybe you can help get a few of your LLM friends and sign up together to get a joint discount. What about the LLM extended course, can that be offered to you at a lower price? Is there a payment plan allowing you to make flexible payments? Perhaps if you commit to working in public interest, could you avail the public interest discount? Bar prep companies offer all kinds of sweepstakes and so don’t forget to be entrepreneurial in your approach. It’s a business at the end of the day, and you are a potential customer. They will do what they can to get you, and you just have to make sure the deal is sweet enough for you. But yes, paying for bar prep can be an expensive affair ($2000-$3000) but I would not recommend going without a course provider. Don’t follow that one person who may have cleared the bar and “self-studied.” Maybe he had the genes of Isaac Newton or the brain of Albert Einstein. For the rest of us mere mortals, we need a bar prep course!
Yet, there is a lot you can do without a bar prep course or as a supplement to it. Let’s explore the areas of the bar exam that we can work together in, or the areas of the bar that you need help with the most.