Lawyers and law students: Is a law school prep course worth the $$ ?

A question for the current and former law students out there in the SDMBverse:

I’m a 31-year-old software engineer who is about to change careers and start law school this fall. I’ve been accepted into NYU and Columbia, and should hear from Harvard any day now (as soon as the admissions committee decides they’ve had their fill of sadistically toying with me by making me wait so long).

I’ve been relying on Montauk’s How to Get Into the Top Law Schools as my guide so far, and it has served me well, I think. At this stage in the process, HTGITTLS recommends taking some classes or a prep course to get familiar with both the subjects covered in 1L, and also to get a jump on learning legal writing and how to take law school exams.

I’m considering taking either the Law Preview course or the BAR/BRI course. Both cost about the same, around $1000, which I would consider cheap if they help me get the most out of my upcoming $100K education, but which is still quite a chunk of change to me.

My questions are these:

  • Has anyone taken either of these courses? Do you think they were beneficial? Did you learn new skills that helped you out, especially during your 1L year? Was it worth the $$?

  • Of the two, which is generally recognized as the better program? I’m leaning towards the Law Preview one, but it seems more people have heard of BAR/BRI, probably because of their bar exam prep program.

Any insight is much appreciated.

I didn’t take a prep class, and I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. I have a hard time believing that a prep class could possible prepare you for the reality of your first year of law school; it’s a whole 'nother country.

What I did find helpful were some books that I bought on the first year’s subjects (torts, contracts, criminal law, civil procedure, stuff like that). I just sat down and read 'em. The books I got were from Aspen Publishers “Examples and Explanations” series. There’s a bunch of them here.

But, I don’t know what your learning style is like. If you tend to benefit more from classroom instruction than from reading a textbook, by all means, go for the prep class. Yet another valuable lesson I learned in law school is, don’t get cheap. If there’s a really good book that’ll help you pass a course, spend the money for it.

Eh, I don’t think it’s necessary. Save up for your Bar prep course!

:smiley:

I was going to write that I didn’t take any sort of prep class before law school, and I did well. Then I remembered that I took a legal research class as an undergrad, as well as a class called Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (mostly Constitutional law), which was taught some of the time in a Socratic method style. I think those helped to prepare me – however, as Max says, there’s no real preparin’ for the likes of law school. Just gotta do it. So your own learning style should probably dictate whether you take a prep course.

That said, I did take LEEWS, a one-day test-taking seminar (for essay exams) in my first semester that I think made a huge difference. I would STRONGLY recommend it, as I believe it gave me a psychological as well as substantive advantage.

LEEWS (puzzling acronym choice, I know) teaches a method to help the student make some immediate sense out of the long fact patterns that comprise most essay exams. It also allows one to start writing a sort of outline immediately (conventional wisdom is not to start writing for at least 10 minutes). I felt like it gave me some concrete tools with which to attack exams. It also allowed me to feel as if I was actually accomplishing something during every oh-so-precious minute of an exam.

But you should read about it yourself. I believe it’s about $90. I think it is quite worth the risk – worst case scenario is that you lose one Saturday and $90; but if your experience is like mine, you’ll gain some measure of test-taking peace of mind as well as some actual tools that work. I used the method all through law school and on the bar as well…

I’ve got to agree with the general trend–I think these courses are vastly overrated. I went to law school ten years after I graduated from college, and I didn’t need a prep class. Here’s what you need to know about first year: be prepared to read a lot; don’t be afraid to ask your professors questions (in or out of class); legal writing is a joke; and don’t forget to go out for a drink every once in a while.

But, then again, this is advice from someone who loved law school, didn’t care about being first in my class, and didn’t get excellent grades, but was told by almost every professor that I’d be a fine attorney. The words from the professors were worth more than the grades on my record.

And I am a fine attorney.

Good luck to you.

I didn’t take a prep course and things were ok.

I did take a legal exam prep course, maybe the one mentioned above, and it was helpful on how to understand fact patters and write an essay for your exams.

I disagree that the legal writing course is a joke. I found it very informative and useful. I would take it seriously. After practicing law for a while, you realize that good legal writing isn’t necessarily as strict in format as your course requirements, but your course is a great place to get the baics.

IRAC!
IRAC!
IRAC!

(not Iraq)

I wouldn’t go for a prep course. Considering you’ve gotten into Columbia and NYU, you’re the prep course is not likely to be much help, as it will be most likely geared to your more run-of-the-mill law programs. In reality, most of first year is not learning the substantive law, but the way your professors want you to think, which can have more variety than you might expect.

I didn’t take a test-taking course, but in hindsight I might have done better if I had. That’s worth considering.

As someone who went to law school after working, my advice to you is to look at law school as a job. Put in your hours and necessary overtime, but don’t have it consume your entire life.

I didn’t take any prep courses whatsoever, and finished my 1L year as the only student to make straight A’s (which I hadn’t done since sixth grade). Mind you, I was attending a much, much more humble little institution than Harvard, but still, due to an extremely heavy curve getting straight A’s was a pretty impressive feat to my classmates. So I became a grade junkie, shaking and nauseous until my end of the semester “fix.” Whether or not it was worth the panic attacks is open to debate.

During my 2L and 3L year students I tutored asked me what the best way to study for the course was and what the best materials were, and I always told them what worked for me may not work for you, and vice versa. How I did well in the course wasn’t as important as them figuring out how they were going to do well in the course. I know that’s what you’re trying to by asking around, so forgive me, I’m just kind of freeform talking out of my ass here.

For me, part of the fun of the first few weeks of law school was the abject fear of not having any idea of what was going on. It’s like a driving course where they teach you by dropping you in the middle of rush hour traffic with no instruction. Getting the car going all on your own is a pretty great feeling. Me, I’d save the money for your bar review course, but you do what you feel you need to.

pravnik, you bastard! :wink: My first year I got all A’s except one A-!!! Grr! Dang you, Bill Vukovich!

There’s no way I’d recommend spending a grand on a prep course. There is IMO very little value in a passing familiarity with your 1L courses, as you’re going to get taught all that by your actual 1L professors. And given the schools you’ve mentioned, it wouldn’t be surprising if your profs approach the subjects in a very idiosyncratic way which won’t fit the dry, point-by-point doctrine you’ll have learned in your prep course. For instance – my torts prof didn’t discuss intentional torts. Many torts classes spend half the semester on them, but we didn’t even glance at them. It’s not a big deal – I know all about them now, because I learned them during my Bar prep course after law school, when I already knew enough about legal analysis and concepts to make them really easy to pick up.

That’s the point of a good law school – not to teach you doctrine, but to teach you how the law works and what issues and facts are going to be important in any given case.

What you should do to succeed in school:

  1. Never miss class
  2. Read every single damn word of the assignments, at least your first year. And if you don’t understand 'em, read them again.
  3. As the exam period approaches, take some of your professor’s old exams under real test conditions.

–Cliffy

Yeah, save your money. The people in my class who took them were kinda disappointed.

I’d also recommend LEEWS. I found it very useful.

But the prep course sounds like an incredible waste of money.

SAVE YOUR MONEY.

But Cliffy

This:

What you should do to succeed in school:

  1. Never miss class
  2. Read every single damn word of the assignments, at least your first year. And if you don’t understand 'em, read them again.
  3. As the exam period approaches, take some of your professor’s old exams under real test conditions.

sounds like great advice for 1L’s but for some actually reading EVRYTHING and attending class EVERYDAY is not a good thing. I self-teach and except for some rare examples of stellar teaching, ignored the profs, but then again I didn’t go to Harvard :slight_smile:

BBJ, top 10%, LJ editor. :slight_smile:

And on preview I note that number 2) was directed mostly towards the 1st year.

BBJ, reading comprehension GODDESS, lol.

Forget the law school prep class and save for the bar prep class. Sign up w/ Barbri as soon as possible to lock in a lower bar prep course price.

Thanks for the advice, guys! You’ve all been very helpful.

Taking a course to take a course? Curiouser and curiouser. Summers are for unwinding.