To Barbri or Not to Barbri
In my ongoing series of entries on taking the New York bar, I'd like to talk about my experience on studying for the bar and doing it with Kaplan.
First, if you are an LLM student, the review companies will be camping out every week in your school from August until the very last week of class in Spring semester and you don't have to hurry to decide. You'll be receiving discounts for signing up early, but in the end, Barbri will be the most expensive, at around $3000 (this was at 2010).
I signed up with Kaplan, because it was a few hundred dollars cheaper than Barbri and I thought I would be receiving materials of similar quality anyway. I think I made the right decision.
What I liked about Kaplan were the following:
1. Lectures were pre-taped and were available anytime, on demand. If I wanted to have a break on Monday, I could watch the lecture on Sunday. Same thing, if I want to have a break on Monday, I could double up on Tuesday. I understand Barbri videotapes lectures as they are delivered. So you have to wait til after the lecture before you can watch the video online.
2. Books and test banks were of a good quality.
3. They provided a structure. At a certain point, we should be studying a certain material. If you followed that time frame, you'd be doing okay.
4. They had lectures from time to time when they would just reassure you that you're doing okay, give you tips on how to study, logistics in the bar itself. Also, Chris Fromm is awesome.
All that said, if you don't enroll with any company and just study on your own, you might be able to pass too. Some people I know just studied with books that they bought from people who just did the bar, and they did okay.
The biggest problem that LLM students might have with the bar is with any ESL issues. Your school will most likely give you your LLM degree after you pay $50K or so, and even if you bomb your exam, you will probably get a B (I did). But there is no such privilege in the bar exam. People do actually fail. I remember someone who left two essay questions blank in my securities exam and we both got the same grade, even though I finished the entire exam. But those who left a question unanswered in the bar exam generally did not make it. There will be a lot of material to go through especially in the MBE (multiple choice!!!) portion of the exam and if you don't keep to 1.8 minutes per question, you might end up not finishing.
Be assured though that many many LLM graduates, even those with ESL problems, can and do pass the bar exam. It's quite manageable. If you have the extra cash, Barbri and Kaplan will be very helpful. If not, go for it on your own and just study extra hard!
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