Why I’ve Avoided BARBRI, And So Should You!

Opinion   /   December 6, 2012  / 


BARBRI is amazing at manipulating the risk-averse nature of law school students in order to maintain its near-monopoly on bar review preparation. I find their strategies unethical and annoying, and I encourage students to look elsewhere.

The e-mails began just one month after the start of 1L year. From my HLS “Section 2” e-mail listserv—the same one students and school officials used to send us general information—I started receiving important tips from two members of my class: “You may be thinking the Bar Exam is eons away, but BARBRI has a lot of things that can help us 1Ls right now in surviving First Year.” BARBRI final exam review lectures, outlines, and computer software can get you through 1L year! Also, if you enroll now you can “lock in the current tuition rate in all jurisdictions” and save a lot of money. After all, “BARBRI prepares over 35,000 of the 40,000 bar applicants.”

In essence, these e-mails were warnings that if we did not enroll in BARBRI immediately, we would (a) miss out on exam preparation materials that other students will have, (b) lose money, and (c) be taking a different path from most of our law school predecessors. Any one of these is a good motivator for an HLS student. Combining all three is overkill. Thank God they don’t offer an “Insider’s Guide to Firms and OCI” or “Judicial Clerkships: What 1Ls Need to Know.”

It was only after the third or fourth email from both of them that I realized they were receiving an economic benefit for sending these e-mails (they did sign the emails as “BarBri Reps,” but so many of us were volunteer 1L reps for various organizations I did not realize there was money to be had). It seemed strange to me that they were sending us unwanted e-mails over official HLS listservs that I could not unsubscribe from. The e-mail address was the same harvard.edu where school-related messages came from, so I could not block them either. Theoretically, I could create an e-mail algorithm that filtered out the rep’s names, but then I risked missing legitimate e-mails from these students. Finding no good way to avoid these emails, I resigned myself to getting over 20 unwanted, unsolicited commercial e-mails through a school e-mail service over the past two years. Is it just me, or is that a pretty shady business practice?

I didn’t even realize that there were other bar preparation courses that were half the cost as BARBRI until this year—that was just the icing on top!

The last thing 1Ls need is BARBRI giving them yet another matter to worry about. As I advise students on just about everything relating to law school, do not feel obligated to do something a certain way just because previous students have, and never feel pressured to do something. When you are ready to think about preparing for the bar, look at all the options in front of you (even if some are less common among your peers), and find which one is best for you. BARBRI may be the best choice (they do have more personal contact than many other programs). But it may not. Don’t let BARBRI’s offensive business practices dictate your life choices.

Brian Clampitt is a 3L. 

The views in opinion editorials, columns, and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of The Harvard Law Record.

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6 Responses to Why I’ve Avoided BARBRI, And So Should You!

  1. This is the best thing I have ever read. Promote this man to Editor.

  2. Thankfully, HLS finally asked the BarBri reps to stop abusing the official email groups for their spam (although they continue to send it through unofficial section mailing lists). BarBri should not be paying students to abuse their access to classmates’ email addresses, they should not be spamming anyone who doesn’t OPT-IN first, and they should have an unsubscribe option of every piece of crap they send.

  3. This is more of a rant against BarBri reps’ annoying emailing practice than a substantive explanation for why BarBri is inferior to other Bar prep practice courses. Would be nice if you elaborated on the alternatives, including Themis and Kaplan.

  4. Meh, who cares. Firm pays for it anyway.

    (I know, I know, you’re public interest. No, you aren’t.)

    • It’s worth caring about even if your firm pays for it. The BarBri course is pedagogically terrible, and designed to make you feel unprepared no matter how much work you do (e.g., their practice essay “scorers” won’t give you a passing score even if you just submit the model essay BarBri provides). I did BarBri and passed the bar, but if I had to do it over again I’d use anything but BarBri–probably Themis, as it doesn’t require you to sit through soul-crushingly tedious lectures.

  5. Even if your firm is paying for it, the money they pay out counts as taxable income. In reality, they are just subsidizing the cost. In the end, overpaying for BarBri has a direct cost, even if the firm pays for it.

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