Choosing a Bar Prep Course

I’m excited to report that I just hit another law school milestone: I registered for a bar prep course! This can be a daunting decision, especially if your friends are student reps for competitors. Below are a list of factors that helped me (and friends who passed the bar in several different states) determine which company was the right fit:

Online v. In-Person. Are you planning to hunker down in a basement during the most vibrant months of the year (like me!), or will you study for the bar while sipping virgin mojitos on the pristine beaches of Costa Rica? Even if you study in your test jurisdiction, some people prefer online courses that they can review at their own pace. Alternatively, I have friends who were adamant about taking in-person classes to help keep them motivated and feel less isolated during the grueling marathon.

Location. For folks who prefer to attend in-person classes, I highly recommend researching the classroom locations and conditions beforehand. I looked at two companies’ locations in Seattle, and one had much nicer accommodations than the other.

Passage Rates. I was strongly considering registering with a particular company because of a great deal they were advertising—until I learned that the company did not keep a record of bar passage rates for the jurisdiction. That was all it took for me to choose a different company.

Cost. There is no denying that bar prep courses are expensive. Some, however, are far more exorbitant than others. (Themis, for example, is about half the price of BARBRI.) Some companies also offer discounts for public interest students. Here’s another consideration: Do you have to pay for books, or just give a deposit?

Fixings. Will you feel more confident with a personal tutor who can provide you with feedback? Do you prefer memorizing information with flashcards? Different companies offer different perks. It all boils down to knowing your learning style and which study methods work best for you.

Jurisdiction. If your state diverges significantly from the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), local companies may offer materials that better prepare you for that exam. Although BARBRI is a better-known brand, until Washington switched to the UBE a few years ago, Rigos had the highest reviews because its materials were developed by a Washington lawyer for the state-specific exam.

Quality of other products. Prepping for the MPRE is a great way to test out a company’s materials. Some friends learned that they preferred X company’s videos and practice questions over Y’s. Similarly, if you’ve tried a company’s services in the past and haven’t been satisfied with the structure or format of their lessons, you may want to stay away.

Retakes. Nobody wants to imagine having to take the bar twice, but the reality is that some people end up retaking the exam. You may want to investigate a company’s policy regarding access to their materials if you have to study for the bar again.


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