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

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.

Kong Phooey

Note: This serial is fictional. 

“Kong. Bar Review. Tonight. You’re going.”

Fenno glanced up at Chevy, who had just strolled into the common room with his demanding-face on. The two had met a few weeks back, when Fenno had sacrificed knee-skin to save Chevy from an oncoming Lesley skater; since then, the elder Chevy (sleepwalking through his last year) had taken the 1L under his wing.

“Man, I don’t understand that bar. Why would anyone bother? Last time I was there, I lost a good shoe—stuck to the floor, never could get it free.”

“What, do you have some crucial CRUPAC’ing to do or something? Don’t care. No time to argue. I’m headed to a pre-pre-pregame.”

“It’s 10:45. In the morning. On a weekday. And I’m not going unless you can give me a single reason to head to that bar instead of drinking cleaning solution.”

“Just take a look at the Guide entry. I think I wrote that one.”

“The what?”

Chevy grimaced, grabbed Fenno’s phone off the couch, and started tapping away.

“Here. The First-Year’s Guide to the Law School. Read up; there’s a bucket of gin waiting for me.”

Chevy tossed the phone back to Fenno and wandered down the hallway in search of potable. The first-year looked at his phone, which was displaying the purchase page for the $0.98 Guide app. The other suggested apps on the page were all at least $0.99, so Fenno took the plunge.


The First-Year’s Guide to the Law School was a most remarkable app, containing everything a bushy-tailed liberal arts kid needed to know to survive 1L in Cambridge. Some of the entries were even factually accurate. The Guide had come to dominate the app-store market for such things, crushing the competition led by the Encyclopaedia Cambridgia for two main reasons: For one, it was slightly cheaper. For two, the home-screen icon was helpfully emblazoned with one block-lettered word: “PANIC.” (If there’s anything a 1L’s good at, it’s panic.)


Fenno searched for “The Kong.” The entry lit up his screen.

The place where every night seems to end. Teams of Cambridge’s finest scientific minds continue to study the strange, gravity-like pull of The Kong, a pull fully active only after 11:30 or so, but each time they end up so hammered that they have to repeat their research again the next night. The current team has been working seven nights a week since 2001; as of this writing, they have made no progress. 

Fenno tapped the “Layout” link.

Three floors. The ground-floor restaurant is a fine place to punish yourself for any wrongs you have/will have committed in any present, past, or future life. Kong “food” is currently considered an illegal torture device by every nation except North Korea and the United States. Try the wontons. 

The second floor, best as anyone can tell, is devoted solely to standing in line for the third floor. While you wait, be sure to enjoy a Scorpion Bowl or five—the contents of the Bowl remain a mystery, though in recent times a consensus has formed that the recipe involves some combination of turpentine and Juicy Juice.

The third floor had its own sub-entry.

You might have thought hell was underground. Think again. The Kong’s third floor is the perfect place to ease your burden if you tire of carrying your dignity around all day. The strange, viscous substance coating the floor is the envy of defense contractors around the globe, all of whom are seeking a more tightly gripping polymer with which to bind warheads to missiles. The third floor remains Harvard Square’s premier destination for listening to horrid music while watching people “dance” like they’re trying to rid themselves of subcutaneous parasites. Highly recommended.

Fenno pulled up the “Bar Review” page next.

Nine out of ten people who own Two and a Half Men on DVD agree that the “Bar Review” name is still a hilarious pun. The HL Central-run event regularly devolves into a mad scramble for precious drink tickets, which confer upon their holders the power to not bother tipping bartenders. A must-attend for anyone who has to sit through Torts.

Next he tried searching “HL Central,” but the Guide only returned an “ENTRY NOT FOUND” page. Fenno shrugged. Chevy was right: he had to go to the Kong tonight.

“Fenno” is a fictional serial written by an anonymous law student. The main character is always named Fenno and is always a 1L, but his or her character changes every school year. This installation is part of the series for the 2012-13 School Year, entitled “Fenno: Mostly Harmless.”