For some people, passing the bar exam is really easy. Some people (ahem) can spend three years of law school with a BAC level approaching “flammable,” sober up for six weeks of BAR/BRI, pass the test, and move on with their lives. People who pass the bar aren’t necessarily “smart.” But they do well on standardized tests.

Other people have a real problem with the bar. Those people aren’t necessarily stupid or lazy. For the most part, bar failure happens to people who don’t standardize-test well and are pointlessly trying to memorize “all” the information instead of being taught how to prioritize the information they have.

Of course, people who don’t standardize-test well and have problems prioritizing information don’t suddenly start doing poorly on the bar exam. They probably lost points on the SAT, but maybe their raw intellectual capacity powered them through to a decent enough score. Maybe they did well at an average college, and then BOMBED the LSAT (which exists to punish people who don’t prioritize information correctly). So they end up going to a low-ranked law school, but they haven’t addressed their testing problems because they think the LSAT was just “one bad day.”

These kind of people spend three years making excuses for their LSAT scores, developing huge chips on their shoulders about how they’re just as smart as people who scored ten points higher (as if standardized tests give a damn about how smart you are), and figure they’ll rock out on the bar because, “Derp, I got an A in evidence, so I’ll ace that section, derp.” And then wham, the bar hits them upside the head, they fail, and they blame their law school, their professors, and the exam itself.

Since drops in bar passage rates make law schools look bad, one law school has an innovative approach to reach kids before they run into a bar exam buzzsaw. And it starts with giving them cash….

New York Law School gets its fair share of people that haven’t exactly excelled on standardized tests in the past. To address this concern, they’ve created a program — they call it Jump Start — to help prepare kids to take the bar exam (and they basically beg their students to sign up for a bar exam course). People who pass the bar like to think that they’ve done so based on some feat of intellectual strength, but there are simply standardized test “tricks” that can be learned that help you tackle something as massive as the bar exam.

But you have to convince students to take these courses and, a lot of times, students who think that they just had one bad day on the LSAT are unwilling to admit that they need “extra” or even “remedial” help in standardized test taking. They think the three years of law school is a “bar prep course.” I know, that’s incredibly stupid, I’m just the messenger.

More maddeningly, you’ve got kids who will pay or borrow tens of thousands of dollars a semester to take “corporations” and “intellectual property,” but balk when you tell to plop down a grand for a bar prep course. Let me put it this way, paying for three years of law school and then not taking a bar prep course is like auditioning for the role of Hamlet when you need to get Hooked on Phonics.

To address these problems, New York Law School is offering $500 in cash to any student that completes its Jump Start bar prep program. As one tipster put it:

Given NYLS recent plunge in bar passage rates, this is both desperate and genius.

I think (and I rarely say this about anything any law school does ever) that this might just be straight “genius.” Here’s the plan to give students cash, in pertinent part, as explained to students by NYLS Dean Anthony Crowell:

While [the Jump Start program] does not replace the need to take a bar prep course, it will provide a solid foundation for your bar study and will help you be ready to hit the ground running and make the most of a bar prep course when you start it this summer. I believe in this program and strongly encourage you to participate. Getting early feedback on your performance on practice questions is crucial to assessing your strengths as well as areas for improvement as you begin formal bar prep.

I understand that you all have many demands on you from school and work, but I believe this program is so vital that I have arranged for every student who completes all five sessions to receive $500 in cash, which I hope you will put towards a bar prep program.

You can read the full plan on the next page.

First of all, it’s a law school giving money to students instead of taking more money from them. That alone is noteworthy.

But it’s also a program that gives students an incentive to help themselves. A source at NYLS reports that school surveys of people who didn’t pass the bar show an alarming number of students who didn’t take any bar prep course or took a random, unproven one.

So if $500 in cash encourages students to complete the pre-course (which alone might make them realize that they need additional preparation to pass the bar), but also gives them a “down payment” on a full bar prep course, what’s not to like?

Again, NYLS probably has a disproportionate amount of people who don’t do well on standardized tests and don’t know know the importance of test prep. If the cold reality of the LSAT didn’t get these kids to think about taking standardized tests differently, maybe $500 in cash money will.

Hey, deans of other law schools reading this: check out the next page to see the NYLS plan. Yes, giving students cash is usually a good thing….


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