Many of us are going through law school without having school-year jobs that require a big time commitment. Some people take some work-study positions during 2L year and beyond, such as working at the law library. Some people work as Research Assistants for professors, which gives you both research experience and also pays. Even if you do not do these things because you are keeping yourself very busy with classes, journals, moot court, or other time consuming law school activities, I highly recommend taking some time during your 1L or 2L year to research bar review companies and to become a campus representative for the company you prefer.
Personally, I’m a Themis representative. After looking into the companies that recruit on campus during 1L year, I decided that I like their education and recruiting models. I also liked their regional managers, and they offered courses for all the states for which I’m thinking of taking the bar. I have friends who are representatives for other companies, such as Barbri and Kaplan. For most of us, the commitment is the same: you sit for an hour a week at your company’s table and let other students know what that company offers and why you chose it. I believe some companies set recruitment goals and sometimes offer incentives based on recruitment numbers. Once you do this for a specified period of time (for Themis, it is currently two years,) you earn a yourself a bar review course. Some companies offer varying incentives to students willing to ‘table’ for a third year. Keep in mind that these days, 3L is usually too late to sign up as a representative and earn a full course – researching this early in your 1L or 2L year is to your benefit.
Come on, you might say, how valuable is this, really? Well, bar review courses range in price from ~$1,400 to $3,000+ depending on what you need to sign up for (e.g. multiple states’ courses). Student loans are not available to cover these courses, but “bar loans” are. However, bar loans tend to have high interest rates, which means these loans are expensive to you as a consumer. (For example, Sallie Mae rates range from 3.75% – 12.74% APR; Wells Fargo rates range from 7.23% to 9.53% APR; Discover rates range from 2.99% to 10.99%. Harvard has published this guide to understand bar loans that can also be helpful.) Since they are not government loans, bar loans cannot be ‘bundled’ with any federal student loans you take out.
You may well succeed in your plan to get a firm job which will pay for your bar review course. If you don’t, or if this is not the kind of job you’re looking for, being a representative can keep you out of the bar loans situation, or free up savings you would have had to use on the bar otherwise. Even if you do get a job that pays for bar review, you may be able to use the fact that you don’t need your bar review course paid for in salary negotiations. It shows initiative in any case.
Being a representative gives you occasion to understand how bar registration works, and what is on the bar, before that last minute when you need to learn it. It also provides you with additional connections, as well as practice speaking publicly and giving a sales pitch. All this for the very low cost of one hour per week sitting at a table, and a willingness to talk to your friends and classmates about why you chose your company’s bar review course over the others that are available.