BY JEREMY BLACHMAN
I passed by the BAR/BRI table last month and stole a highlighter. I know one of the BAR/BRI reps. She asked me if I was signed up for the gobbledygook reviewomatic for the STPOC3 or some sort of acronym-friendly exam I’d never heard of. I told her I wasn’t planning on taking the BAR/BRI class. She said, “good luck with that.” I stole an extra highlighter.
Instead, I spent $125 and bought some old BAR/BRI books from a friend over break. Apparently he was able to remove the Lojack device embedded in each volume to prevent the books from leaving the hands of the enrolled students and escaping into the evil clutches of people like me. In BAR/BRI lingo, they call us “the people who are going to fail the bar exam.”
The truth is, if I was going to a firm, of course I’d take BAR/BRI. (And some special magic pills to make me feel better about my life.) But unless a firm is paying, it’s kind of expensive – I believe the going rate is $2400 if you sign up the morning you arrive at law school, $2600 if you wait until lunchtime, $3000 plus your left leg as collateral if you wait a week, $4000 if they don’t like you, and $500,000 anytime after the first day of classes.
But if you’re going to a firm, even if the class is useless – and, no matter how much I want to believe it is, I’m guessing it’s not -if you don’t take the class, and you fail the bar, I imagine you’re going to feel stupid, and rightfully so. Even worse, your firm is going to feel like you’re really stupid. Like unaccredited-law-school stupid.
But I figure I can learn from the books. And so far I am. Well, so far I’m learning they’re heavy. They’re really heavy. But the covers are pretty and shiny. So pretty. So shiny. Like many unaccredited law school buildings.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
On the cover of every book is a box: “celebrating 35 years of preparing law students for the bar exam.” Is this really cause for celebration? What kind of celebration? I bet it would a pretty tame celebration. Maybe the most exciting part would involve a white board and some dry erase marker fumes. I’m trying to picture what the set of people employed by BAR/BRI might look like, and what it would look like for them to celebrate. I’m picturing them bringing out that very first law student they prepared for the bar exam. He’d be about 60 by now, I guess. They could have a reunion of everyone they prepared. Then, with all of the lawyers gathered in one place, people could start violating the rules of evidence, and no one would know.
The inside cover of one of the books announces, next to a picture of a Carter-era cell phone and a beeper that looks like my digital alarm clock, “Cell Phones and Beepers MUST be turned OFF before entering any classroom.” Sounds straightforward enough. “If you wish to keep them on, they MUST be on vibrate mode.” Wait a minute. Lawyers wrote this? If the same people who wrote these contradictory instructions are writing practice exam questions, there’s going to be like six right answers. “MUST be turned OFF” is very clear. But then the next sentence says you can keep them on. What’s the answer, BAR/BRI? Not enough guts to really mean what you say? But the third line is the real fun one: “IF CELL PHONES OR BEEPERS RING, YOU WILL BE ASKED TO LEAVE THE CLASSROOM AND EXCLUDED FROM FUTURE LECTURES.” I’d bet the price of these BAR/BRI books that this rule is enforced about as much as the sign I remember as a kid at the “fixin’s bar” in Roy Rogers restaurants that said “Fixins are for sandwiches only.” I wanted pickles with my fried chicken, and no one ever stopped me. People are paying thousands of dollars to be there, and the first two rules about cell phones are contradictory anyway. Do they really exclude people from future classes? Come on, BAR/BRI. No one believes you. I bet you’ve only spent 34 years preparing law students for the bar exam, not 35. Liars.
I opened up another book to find a cheerful and catchy slogan: “At BAR/BRI We Take The Multistate Every Time – So You Only Have To Take It Once. That’s Why Our Multistate Program Has No Equal.” Say it with me, it’s fun.
One book has some essay tips. Graders should not have to “search” for the answer. Remember you want the grader to “like” you. Not making this up. Oops, I mean, not making this “up.” Use “quotes” throughout your answer, especially in “meaningless” places. You want the grader to “think” you can’t “write.”
Do not overemphasize [those three words are in bold italics] so many words that the effect is lost. Only “buzz words” should be emphasized. BAR/BRI isn’t even following its own rules. I find the overemphasizing of the word overemphasize extraordinarily amusing. Maybe that’s the dry erase marker fumes talking.
From another book: “No one achieves a perfect score on the MBE.” That can’t literally be true, can it? Not a single person? Ever? BAR/BRI doesn’t seem to have a credible narrator. This is going to make it a chore to really follow the plot throughout all these books. I mean, there’s that exciting journey through Evidence Forest, and then the trip down Property Lane… but what does it all mean? What’s the big picture? Why is this column so long, yet so lacking in substance?
There’s a book called the “Conviser Mini Review.” I assume Conviser is a Latin word meaning “horribly unpleasant to read.” I wanted to tell you that the “mini review” is 800 pages long, but I can’t, because the pages aren’t numbered. It looks like about 800 pages. Maybe. They’re not telling us because they know that no one is going to like a “mini review” that has more pages than Black’s Law Dictionary.
Okay, that’s about the best I can do without reading anything. For more BAR/BRI copyright violations from me, you’ll have to wait until June, which will be the next time I touch any of these books.
Jeremy Blachman is a 3L who expects this column to come back to haunt him when he fails the bar exam.