Tuesday, September 10, 2019

How To Pick The Best Bar Prep Course



Hey, friends!

This is a post that I've been wanting to make for awhile, ever since I picked my bar prep course last fall. However, I decided to hold off on making a post because I didn't want to be that person that advertised my methods for picking a bar prep course and then subsequently failed the bar. Can you imagine? Luckily, I got the news back recently that I PASSED THE BAR EXAM! Thus, I am starting my series on the bar exam and all things about it. And when it comes to the bar exam, I was trying to think of what would make sense to post first and I figured, why not talk about picking a bar prep course? So here we go!

Know Your Options

This might seem obvious, but the first thing that you need to do when picking a bar prep course is to know your options. Of course, there are the commercial course available. You've probably seen student representatives tabling at your school trying to sell you a course since first semester 1L. Barbri, Themis, and Kaplan seem to be the main courses available. Quimbee, AdaptiBar, BarMax, and other companies also offer courses, although they seem to be less popular. 

Another option is checking with your school. A lot of schools offer bar prep courses, either during the school year or for the summer after 3L. Sometimes these are meant to be comprehensive, sometimes these are meant to be a supplemental tool to another full, comprehensive course. A lot of the time, these are either free or included in tuition, so definitely check with your school!

Lastly, there is a self-study option. You can gather books, materials, and your notes from law school and study on your own. I'll be honest, I don't know a lot of people who do this because it's a lot harder. You have to be extremely disciplined, and there's something to be said for getting instruction from someone who knows what they are doing. 

When to Buy

This was a question I struggled with - when is the right time to buy a bar prep course???

Well, truth be told, if you are buying a commercial course, it is cheaper to buy early. But you don't necessarily have to make a decision and purchase a course 1L year. To me, that's far too early. So when I say you should buy early, I mean second semester 2L through first semester 3L year. For me, I purchased a course in October my 3L year. I got a good deal, and it allowed me time to think through my decision and not commit to something I didn't want too early. It seems like most law students choose a course around this time.

How to Decide

The hardest part about picking a bar prep course is probably actually deciding which one you want to get. And truth be told, the right choice is different for each person. You're probably thinking "But Bailey, just tell me which course is best!" But the truth is, I can't. Because what worked best for me might not work best for you. So instead, I'll tell you some things you can do to help you decide!

  • Most bar prep companies (at least the three major ones - Kaplan, Barbri, and Themis) offer a free MPRE course. When you take the MPRE, I recommend trying out the free course and seeing which ones you like. The bar prep course will likely be similar (at least in format) to the MPRE course, so it's basically a free trial.
    • I can't emphasize this option enough. I took the MPRE three times - twice using one course, when I failed. Third time I used another course - increased my score by 30 points and passed by a huge margin. Took the bar prep course from the company I took the passing MPRE course with and I passed. 
  • Look at your budget and consider costs. If you've started looking at bar prep courses, you know that they can be pretty expensive. Obviously, at the end of the day, it's worth paying for something that can be integral to passing the bar. But, that doesn't mean you should throw out your whole budgeting plan to pick a top course. If you have a firm paying for your course, this might not matter. If you're going into public interest or a clerkship, a cheaper option might make a big difference.
  • Ask your friends who just took the bar what their honest reviews of the courses they took are. Ask what they like, what they didn't - not just general thoughts. Some people may want a course that focuses more on writing practice, others may need more multiple choice help. Some may want to be in a more guided course, others may want more freedom. Ask lots of questions.
  • Lastly, ask student reps and the companies themselves. Obviously, this information would be a little more biased because at the end of the day, these companies are trying a product. However, it might help you get answers you need. 

Then, take these considerations and weigh them. You might have a clear answer, or they might all sound the same to you. Truth be told, if you take a course and honestly put effort into doing the work you will probably pass the bar. They are all good courses. So don't let it stress you out too much. 

Which Course Options to Pick

Another thing you might have noticed is that once you pick a company, you have to pick a course. Some companies offer in person classes, some offer live stream classes, and others offer fully self-paced online classes. When it comes to choosing which of these options you want, my biggest advice is to know yourself and your study habits.

Do you want flexibility with time? Maybe an online only option is great for you. Do you want a bit more structure in your day to keep you on track? Maybe go with an in-person class. A combination of both? The live stream class might be best. Think about whether you want to be social, whether you want to study at home,  and what structure has previously worked for you in the past.

For me, I wanted something scheduled in my day to keep me on track. I originally chose an in-person class, but that class unfortunately got cancelled and I switched to a live stream class. This was great for me. I had class from 8:00 a.m. to noon daily, and then spent the afternoons and evenings on my study activities like practice questions, essays, and reading. However, I had a friend who travelled a lot in the summer and needed flexibility, so she chose an all-recorded option.

Just consider your lifestyle, study habits, and summer plans!

Supplements?

The last thing I want to address is whether you should get any sort of bar prep supplementary tools in addition to a course. When it comes to bar prep, you can get a number of different study aids in addition to commercial bar prep courses. As if spending literal thousands of dollars on a course wasn't enough. So you might be wondering whether or not you should also pick up one or two of these supplemental tools.

To be honest, I did use a supplemental tool. I used an MBE outline set from Crushendo. These were audio and written outlines that helped me supplement the materials I had from my bar prep course. It was nice to have something written differently for subjects I didn't understand, or to be able to play the audio outlines when I was cooking dinner or working out.

I know several people swear by buying a set of commercial flash cards. The Critical Pass Cards seem to be a favorite, with Kaplan flash cards trending right behind.  While I love flash cards, I chose not to get these because part of why I like flash cards is because actually making them helps me learn. However, I know people SWEAR by these.

So, I would recommend getting a supplement of some kind. It's nice to have information that is written differently than the way your bar prep course has written the information, and it's especially nice to be able to change up your routine. However, if you can't afford an extra tool, do not stress about it!


Overall, you have to choose the bar prep course that is right for you - and that means something different for everyone. However, most of the commercial courses out there are pretty good and I am sure you will do fine with whatever course you choose. 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

I Passed the Bar Exam!

Hey, everyone!

So, I'm coming at you with some good news here...

I PASSED THE BAR EXAM!


That's right, folks. You heard me. Might as well get me a spray tan and call myself Kim Kardashian because I am a straight-up, full blown laywer. Honestly, this has been a surreal weekend processing the news. But now that I have a chance to sit down and think about it all, I am so incredibly grateful and happy to be blessed with the opportunity to pursue a career that I've dreamed about and that I know I will love very much. 

I want to thank each and every reader of mine who has been on this journey with me. I want to thank other bloggers who have inspired me. And I want to put out nothing but intense gratitude for everyone who has really helped me acheive my dreams.

This last few weeks have been insane. I took the bar, moved into a new apartment, started a new job, and spent six anxious weeks waiting for results. I'm hoping that now that things have settled down a little bit, I will be able to get back into blogging. I plan on blogging about my bar exam experience and about starting my career as a judicial clerk. Obviously, before now I have mainly focused on being a law school blogger. While I love talking about law school and helping law students, I don't know that I necessarily will be able to produce a lot of content about law school without continuing to go through it. So, this blog will likely switch to focusing on my life as a baby lawyer. 

If you have anything you want me to blog about, please let me know!

Thanks everyone, and I'll see you with some more posts soon!

Friday, July 26, 2019

"Must Have" Supplies for Law School



Hey, friends! Sometime during 3L, I was on the phone with my mom and said something somewhat profound and a little bit humorous:
"You know, it's funny, but I think after almost twenty years of being in school, I've finally figured out what study tools work for me. And now I'm almost done" 

The truth is, through years of college, my study habits have changed and developed, and I've really figured out what does and does not work for me. I wrote a post a couple of years ago about what supplies you should get for law school, and I stand by everything in there. I repeated some of the supplies here, but for a comprehensive look, check out that post too! And by now, I definitely have figured out what my favorite things are, especially for law school. So I thought I'd share some of those products with you! Below is my list of must-have supplies for school, with links to specific product recommendations if I have any. If you know of brands or products that you would rather use, choose those. These are just the ones I like.

Technology Products

  • Desktop Monitor
    • So this is something I actually bought during 2L, but I wish I would've bought it when I first started law school. And to be honest, I use this more than anything else. I originally got my desktop computer monitor for writing papers so I could have two screens - one for displaying my research or notes, the other screen for the actual paper. Now I love it for so much more. The bigger screen alone is a bonus, and a real keyboard and mouse makes things much more comfortable. Now I don't have to squint at a tiny screen, waste time flipping between windows, or get neck cramps from typing on a small, flat screen

  • iPad - or other Tablet
    • It's pretty obvious that you are going to need a good laptop for law school. In fact, certain schools require you to have one, and may even have certain specifications that you laptop needs to meet. So I won't bore you by telling you that you need a good laptop. You already know that. 
      • But for those of you that are curious, I have this laptop and LOVE it.
    • However, one thing I didn't realize that I really loved having is an iPad. In fact, after I bought my iPad at the beginning of 3L year, I never brought my laptop to class. This espeically makes sense if you take notes the way that I do - where you type out your reading notes but handwrite your class notes. The iPad allowed me to pull up those reading notes, without having to bring my entire laptop to class. I loved the portability and ease. The ability to check my text messages in class quickly without much distraction was also nice. Plus, I liked it for playing games, watching Netflix, or browsing Pinterest when I wasn't in class. 
  • Big, over-the-ear headphones
    • In law school, you're probably going to spend a lot of time studying in public. This might be at the library, in a coffee shop, in airports or train stations - basically anywehre you might have some down time. So you're probably going to want to have some headphones to cover up the noise around you. I spent the first semester of law school using my ear buds and after awhile, my ears started to hurt and I hated being attached by a cord. I decided to spring for some big, over-the-ear bluetooth headphones and they seriously changed my life! I loved them to drown out noises in the library, really focus in at home, and especially loved them for airplanes.

  • Extra Phone Chargers
    • I cannot recommend this enough! I literally had four chargers during law school. One by my bed, one in my car, one at my desk, and one in my backpack for school. It's nice to not lose your charger taking it to and from every location you need, and it's nice to always have a full charge if you need it.
      • For your bed, I recommend getting an extra-long charger. I have an iPhone, so I use these chargers!
      • For everywhere else, I find that the regular chargers are great - especially in the car, at your desk, or in your bag where you don't want a cord to take up a lot of space. You can even buy them in multi-packs!

Stationary and Writing Utensils

  • Highlighters
    • You will do a TON of highlighting in law school. Like way more than you actually think. I literally went through a highlighter a week in law school - no exaggeration. I have a couple of different product recommendations here.
      • For standard, yellow highlighters - my most used tool - I prefer Sharpie, thin, chisel-tip fluorescent yellow highlighters. I bought this 36-pack, because it made it so I wasn't running to the store for more every month. These are bright and thin, making it easy to highlight exactly what you want and the color is happy and stands out.
      • For colored highlighters, I recommend Sharpie Clear-View highlighters. (I really love the Sharpie brand, y'all. I love the clear view because you can see what you are highlighting through the little window. It's seriously cool. They are more expensive than the plain yellow ones, but I primarily used only yellow highlighters, so when I needed colored ones I splurged on these.
      • For gel highlighters, I actually recommend my only non-Sharpie favorite, Bible highlighters! These are a great price and are nice to use on books with thinner pages that ink highlighters bleed through. Sharpie and other brands have gel highlighters, but I've found that the bible ones are thinner and more accurate.
  • Pens
    • In my mind, pens are so personal. We all like what we like. And that's fine. Whatever you like, get a ton of your favorite kind of pen. I personally prefer the Pilot G2 Gel Pens. In fact, they're still what I use for bar prep. 
  • Notebooks
    • Some people prefer taking notes on their laptops. I personally believe that your in-class notes should be handwritten, because it helps retention and helps you focus. Thus, notebooks are SUPER important to me. However, even if you are someone who prefers to type your notes, make sure you at least have a notebook or two. You never want to be that person in class who has to ask around for a piece of paper if you need one. Plus, what if your laptop dies or something?
  • Planner
    • StudI am probably in the minority of law students who don't think you need a big, fancy planner to get by. However, you do need some sort of planner. You will have a lot on your mind, and the last thing you need to worry about is keeping all of your due dates or appointments in your head. So get an academic planner. I prefer ones with weekly views as well as monthly views for different things.
      • I prefer the Blue Sky Planners - I get these every year. They are available at Target and Amazon, usually for $10-20 so they are great!

Food & Drink Items

  • Lunchbox
    • Law school is a lot like high school. You have lockers. All of your classes are with the same people. You might even have a lunch room. Our school had a cafe, a couple fridges, a couple microwaves, and eating utensils available. This was great, because although I lived close to school, going home was sometimes a hassle. So I brought either lunch or a lot of snacks every day.
      • I bought a basic lunchbox from Walmart for like $5 during back-to-school sales. However, this one is similar to the one I bought and I am looking at ordering for my big kid job starting soon!
  • Water Bottle/Tumbler
    • I feel like on every suggested school supplies lists, the writer lists a water bottle. It's important to stay hydrated. But on top of that, whenever I was nervous about being called on in class, my throat would get SO DRY. So I was always grateful to have my water with me. And let's be real, it's 2019 and single-use plastics are lame. So get a reusable water bottle or tumbler to bring to class with you - or even for using at home!
      • A lot of people like a Hydroflask - and I agree! They're great - they literally keep ice frozen for 2 days.
        • But, I needed a cheaper option! Law school has me on a budget, y'all. I got this knockoff water bottle from Walmart, and it's seriously my favorite water bottle I've ever had. I admittedly bought it as a cheap thing to take to tailgates, that way I wouldn't care if I lost it and now I treasure it!
      • Or, if you prefer a straw, check out this totally cute tumbler! I also use straw cups every day, so you can't go wrong.
  • Reusable Food Containers
    • I mean by now, you get the point. You're going to want to bring lunch, snacks, and possibly other meals to law school with you. So save the earth and bring your food in reusable containers in you lunch box. Here are some of my favorites:
  • Locker Snacks
    • Lastly, I'm a big fan on having snacks available at all times. Keep some snacks in your locker for an emergency sugar rush, or for days you didn't plan on staying for lunch but did anyway. I recommend keeping some fruit snacks for a quick grab between classes, or some macaroni and cheese cups for emergency meals.

Study Space Supplies

  • Amazon Echo Dot
    • During my 2L year, I decided to check out what all the buzz was about, and purchase an Amazon Echo Dot. Now, I absolutely love it and could not imagine a study space without it. It's so easy to just shout out an instruction to play music on spotify, ask the weather outside right before you head to class and you're trying to pick a pair of shoes, or set a timer when you are trying to convince yourself to study for just 20 minutes. 
      • I actually also just ordered the bigger Amazon Echo so I could have a better speaker, but it is a little more expensive. So it's an option, but the Echo Dot is great for budgeting.
  • A Good Lamp
    • One thing about law school is that your eyes will suffer. You'll spend so many hours staring at a computer screen or reading books, and vision headaches might become frequent. One way to combat that is to make sure you study and read in adequate light. my desk lamp was a lifeseaver. Luckily, I lived in an apartment that was furnished with a built-in desk and desk lamp. However, I found this great option that looks plenty bright, comes in several colors, and has a USB port for charging your phone! Great for small desk spaces. 
  • Blanket
    • It's super important to be comfortable when you study. It makes things way more tolerable. I always had a blanket slung on the back of my desk chair to wrap up in when I studied. It was great for when the AC was running or just feeling cozy. If you're anything like me, you probably have a million blankets already you can use. But if you're anything like me, you never pass up on an opportunity to buy another cozy blanket. I love sweater blankets, and just ordered this one on Amazon for my new apartment!
  • Essential Oil Diffuser
    • To be honest, I always made fun of people who used essential oils. I thought they were a hippie thing. Then my grandma bought me a diffuser and I realized that they are AMAZING. It's basically an air freshener, but there's something so soothing about it. I also like mine because the diffuser itself changes colors and lightens up the space.

So those are all of my must-have supplies for law school. At least the ones I can think of right now. To be honest, the bar exam is in a few days and thinking is a little difficult at this point. Let me know what your must haves are, or if you tried any of these products!
 
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