Bar Exams, BARBRI, pls hndle thx

Pls Hndle Thx: Do You Need to Take a Bar Review Course?

Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to

Dear ATL,

I’m in my last year of law school and will be taking the bar this summer. I was wondering if you had some advice on the necessity of a bar review course. The opinions I’ve received from friends who have passed the bar has been split. They all say that it helped keep them “on pace” or “forced them to study” which I’m frankly not worried about. Is there going to be enough new law in one year to sink your bar exam if you’re studying from the previous year’s materials?

— Pay to Play

Dear Pay to Play,

Upon realizing that Suze Orman’s Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke was not itself filled with money, I recently sat down with a “financial advisor”…

The advisor asked me why I wasn’t contributing to my 401(k) or saving for retirement. I explained to him that 401(k)s are a scam because if I die before 59 I won’t get to see a dime of it unless I VOLUNTEER to get punished for accessing my own money beforehand. Um, no thanks. My long-term personal investment strategy has been to invest in things like skinny jeans with belted voluminous tops, teeth whitening, designer bags purchased off eBay, ceramic plate flat irons, Spanx, plastic surgery, perfume and other implements of feminine deception that will eventually trick someone repulsively rich into either splitting their retirement with me or at least give me an elective share. I arrived at this strategy when I discovered that being a lawyer wouldn’t make me rich. Not by a long shot.

But you’re not at that point yet. You have your whole demoralizing career ahead of you. You’ve already invested $200,000+ in this whole JD thing. Is another $2,000 for a bar course really going to put you over the top? Failing the bar is like tanking first semester 1L year – that s**t HAUNTS you for the rest of your career. I remember when JFK Jr. died in that plane crash, and the first thing I thought when I heard the news was: um, didn’t that guy fail the bar? Literally twice?

Of course, taking a BAR/BRI class doesn’t guarantee you’ll pass, but just like Princeton Review and the SATs, you have to attend the live sessions AND buy the books, because everybody else is and if you don’t, you’ll be left behind. As it was, I only passed the bar by two points and I took BAR/BRI and PMBR and I wore my lucky Marines t-shirt and I had a deal in place with God. If I had just studied from the previous year’s old, stolen books, I would have most certainly failed. Chilling.

You need every scrap of help you can get on this exam – unless you’re taking the exam in joke states like Montana or Florida – including the help of BAR/BRI live. This will still hold true even if University of Phoenix Chubb Institute DeVry owns it.

I hope this helps.

Your friend,

Of course you should take a bar prep course. What kind of idiot “friends” do you have who are telling you anything different? You know people who passed the bar exam without taking a course? Or do you have friends who passed the bar and took a course but feel like they didn’t need it?

If it’s the latter, then they have no way of know what might have happened if they had not taken a bar review course. Hell, even the anxiety from trying to study for this thing without doing what 95% of your peers are doing could significantly influence ultimate performance. For all you know, the friends who are advising you to not take a course are secretly hoping you fail so they have one less lawyer to compete with for jobs.

If it’s the former, if you have friends who didn’t take a course and still easily passed, well that’s great. More power to those people.

Now, to sound like your mother: if all your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and survived, would you jump off of it too? I’ve got friends who drive drunk, I’ve got friends who have unprotected sex with women they’ve just met, and I’ve got friends who go to law school at Cooley.* Just because I have friends who do these things and aren’t dead doesn’t mean doing these things is a good idea!

* I don’t actually have friends who go to Cooley, but the it worked best in the tricolon I was setting up. Style > substance.

As you know, I don’t usually advise people to do what everybody else is doing just because everybody else is doing it, but this is the exception. You know nothing about what the bar is like, how hard or easy it is, or whether or not you’ll take to the material. Lots of smart people fail and lots of dumb people pass.

Why do you think that is? It’s because passing the bar has very little to do with any other intellectual experience in your life. It’s a novel, unnatural experience. Let’s say you spend your days at the firing range and your nights playing Call of Duty. You’d still have no relevant experience to tell you how you would react if somebody dropped you into the middle of a war. You’d need training before you knew how to handle it.

The bar exam is war — war on your brain. Not because it’s particularly difficult, but because the test is trying to kill you. The test doesn’t want you to pass. The test doesn’t want you to show your knowledge. The test wants you to cry, fail, and never try to enter the legal profession again. That’s different than other tests you’ve taken, and the consequences (a stunted or wholly aborted career) are greater than on any other test you’ve taken.

Take. A. Class. Take any of them. Take all of them. Just don’t be such a narcissist. Show some humility in front of the test and let other people help you prepare for it.

— Tool of the test prep establishment… who passed the bar on his first try with no problem.

Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to

Earlier: Prior editions of Pls Hndle Thx

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