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Popular Bar Review Courses and Resources

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Below is a partial listing of the courses offered nationally and a sampling of these in New York and California (the two most popular bar exams). To find local courses, you should contact your local bar association, the legal periodicals in your city (especially in November and May, when bar results are typically published); or check your school's newspaper or the National Jurist Magazine. Ads for these courses are bound to appear in student-oriented periodicals.

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New courses come and go. Old ones fade. Make sure you take a recognized course. While fraud has yet to be major concern in the industry, it occurs. Some courses are quick to boast a high pass rate for all of its students, regardless of which exam they took. Make sure that the pass rate reflects those students in that course who passed the same bar exam for which you are preparing. For example, if you are taking the Tennessee bar exam, make sure that a course boasting of a 90% pass rate is talking about its students who sat for the Tennessee bar. Check it out thoroughly.

Some programs have been caught inflating or misrepresenting their numbers. If you are at all concerned about a course, check with the bar association and the grievance committees (attorneys usually run these courses) and the Better Business Bureau.

Below are some of the national courses and local ones for New York and California. There is no particular significance to the order. It is more or less alphabetical. Moreover, inclusion of a course in this list is by no means an endorsement.

National Courses

BAR/BRI

BAR/BRI offers "full service" courses in 45 states. Its courses cover local law and multistate subjects. A three-day intensive program on the MBE which includes a simulated MBE and a day of "subject by subject" analysis of questions is also offered.

BAR/BRI's literature describes its program as consisting of:

Comprehensive, concise outlines prepared by BAR/BRI's staff of lecturers. These totally bar exam oriented summaries cover all subjects tested on both the local and Multistate portions of the exam. Simulated testing sessions for both local and Multistate portions of the exam will be given. Selected Multistate questions are computer graded and selected essays are individually graded and critiqued by local attorneys.

PMBR

PMBR calls itself the "Multistate Specialist." It offers a three-day program in 42 states, including D.C. The program's literature states: "Day 1 is the 'Trial Run,' on which day a preliminary MBE is administered. Days 2 and 3 consist of an intensive MBE review, which involves the analysis of the practice exam questions from Day 1."

REED LAW GROUP, LTD. Reed Law Group offers both full bar review courses for Illinois and Texas and live or in-home courses on the Multistate. According to its materials, Reed provides: "Realistic Multistate exams created from recent issues tested regularly on the latest MBE's. Your answers will be computer-graded, comparing your scores to actual scores achieved by those who took the MBE in the past."

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THE SKILLMAN METHOD

The Skillman Method offers a general bar exam preparation course in Manhattan, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Boston. Their program consists of a basic seven hour course, "How to Prepare for the Bar Exam"; and covers all phases of exam preparation, including scheduling, outlining bar materials, the MBE exam, and exam writing and legal analysis. A six-week "Intensive Bar Course" is also offered. Students take an in-class examination weekly and meet with the faculty regularly for individual instruction. Every paper turned in is critiqued in writing, line-by-line. Students also receive an audiotape on exam writing.

Private instruction videos and audiotapes are available.

SMH BAR REVIEW SMH is offered in 23 jurisdictions. In addition to providing lectures, books and practice exams, SMH offers a "computer diagnostic analysis." It describes this feature as follows:

The full SMH Computer Diagnostic Analyses (CDA) compiles your performance on practice questions given throughout the course. Every SMH student receives SMH's proprietary software containing the full Computer Diagnostic Analyses. With this tool, you can input your answers to 1,600 of SMH's practice questions at home and receive the full CD A report.

WEST BAR REVIEW

The West Bar Review calls itself "the nation's newest and most experienced bar review." West is headed by Stan Chess, the long-time president of BAR/BRI, and Steve Levine , BAR/BRI's former national director. Besides Chess and Levine, other West Bar Review lecturers include Harvard Professor Arthur Miller and John Moye, who teaches by using rock n'roll tunes.

PIEPER NEW YORK - MULTISTATE BAR REVIEW, LTD.

Using "the Pieper Active-Teaching" style, John Pieper personally prepares students through lectures and essays. Pieper is best known for his mnemonic devices, or memory aids, which promotional materials describe as part of the "Pieper Difference." His materials note that the Pieper course is the only bar review geared exclusively to the New York bar exam:

Taking the bar exam is, in many ways, an endurance test. So, to be successful, the seven week bar review period must be thought of as training for a marathon.... John Pieper is that coach, and Pieper Bar Review is the course that makes you meet the challenge.

SUPPLEMENTAL BAR REVIEW TUTORIAL PROGRAM

PALS

I make special mention of these programs because of their dedication to assisting disadvantaged students through the bar exam process. I helped to design and run the New York program which has consistently reached pass rates of well above the average. In some years, it has come within percentage points of the overall state pass rate. The New York program, modeled after one started in Chicago, focuses on improving essay-writing and test-taking skills rather than concentrating on substantive legal concepts. Students meet as a group one afternoon each week for six weeks prior to the bar exam to hear lectures on such topics as organization. They then take sample exam questions for later review. Each student is assigned a mentor who provides exam feedback and support. These programs stand as models which other bar associations and schools have adopted or are considering. Check your local bar association to see if they have or are willing to adopt one.

Make the most out of the review course you choose. If you have questions, ask. If you need guidance, request it. Do it after class or call them later on. Get your money's worth. Remember: Your success is their success.

lectures on such topics as organization. They then take sample exam questions for later review. Each student is assigned a mentor who provides exam feedback and support. These programs stand as models which other bar associations and schools have adopted or are considering. Check your local bar association to see if they have or are willing to adopt one.

Make the most out of the review course you choose. If you have questions, ask. If you need guidance, request it. Do it after class or call them later on. Get your money's worth. Remember. Your success is their success.

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