Congratulations on getting accepted into law school! If you are considering a Law Preview Course I assume you have already decided on a school to attend. There’s a good chance that you will get blasted with emails and/or mailings about commercial prep courses. The price of these courses has skyrocketed somewhat in recent years, the Barbri Course I took had a sticker price of $1500! That being said, if you search the forums you will get a lot of different opinions on Law Preview Courses and whether or not they are worth the price.
The world of law school preparation is a lot different than it used to be. 1L Classes are pretty much structured the same no matter what law school you go to, making universal prep courses more applicable to any student. Nowadays there are plenty of 1L prep books, and courses available from a variety of different companies.
Before deciding on whether or not to take a course you need to have a handle on your expectations.
Prep Courses Don’t Guarantee Higher Grades And/or Top Percentile
It’s impossible for any prep course to thoroughly dive into any one of your classes in a six day timespan. There is absolutely no guarantee that you will perform better because of a prep course. Some students don’t do the readings, don’t show up on time and don’t make the best of the opportunity that’s presented. These are the students who won’t see any tangible benefit from the course.
Prep Courses Are Not Cheap But Nothing About Law School Is Cheap
Five years ago the cost of a six day Barbri Prep Course was $1,100, since then it has increased to $1,500. That is a lot of money for six days of pretty much non-stop class. There are a multitude of scholarships available through law schools, and these can change the cost-benefit analysis. Of course if a Law Preview Course helps you avoid pitfalls your 1L Year and you come out in the top 20 percentile, than $1,500 doesn’t sound that bad.
A Good Prep Course Offers Good Insight
Prep courses give you a really nice introduction into your 1L classes. Courses typically give you an introduction to briefing cases, writing outlines, and offer advice on class preparation. These are all useful and help take some of the stress off your shoulders during the first few weeks of 1L. The prep course will typically divide the week between the different 1L courses that all law students take. You are essentially learning some of the legal concepts that you will learn in 1L, but in an environment without grading or the Socratic Method.
During the summer prior to my first year in law school I was anxious about preparing for school. 1L Year is the most important year by far for law students and I wanted to be as prepared as possible for that first semester. After speaking with several A.D.A’s at the District Attorney’s Office I worked at, I came home thinking that there was nothing I should do. Every attorney told me the same thing, “Don’t do anything, every professor is going to teach differently and you risk getting burned out”.
Later on in the summer I was inundated with a variety of pre-law course advertisements. I wasn’t interested in spending another $1,500 to take a six-day course so I tossed the idea under the rug. I later received a scholarship for a Barbri Law Preview Course that my law school offered.
I wasn’t interested in taking a preview course at $1,500, but I couldn’t say no if it was absolutely free. There were quite a few things I really enjoyed about the course, and I do believe that it really helped with my 1L year.
I didn’t think of it then, but now I think back and that preview course was one of the best opportunities I have had to network with law students from different schools. Once your in law school the vast majority of law students you meet are going to be at your school. Your just not going to have the chance to meet a lot of people from other schools. Law Preview was great in a networking regard, because I now know law students in a dozen different schools. A few of them I visit from time to time.
Students briefed a minimum of five cases a night and brought them in for the next day of class. The professor would critique the outlines and offer advice on improving them. The course also covered outlines, when to start working on them, and how to make them as helpful as possible.
I enjoyed the course previews each day, even if it frequently felt like information overload. Law Preview obviously doesn’t try to pack an entire contracts or torts class into six days, but the information they do pack in is a lot. Personally I’m not a big fan of Contracts, actually its my least favorite of the core subjects covered in 1L, and I got a preview for this disdain with Barbri. It helps to reinforce the information if you go back through each class’s PowerPoints before your first day of law school as well.
There are a number of law preview courses and materials out there today. Barbri, Powerscore & Kaplan all offer Law Preview Courses. Not all of them are equal, and if you are adamant about taking a preview course you should do the research first. Some people will tell you that Law Preview is nothing but snake oil, and the courses aren’t worth the money. You can certainly learn the skills and information on your own, but prep courses do serve a helpful purpose. You may feel like you don’t need a prep course and that’s perfectly fine. No one ever said that you have to take a Barbri Prep Course to get in the top of your law school class.
Personally, I wouldn’t pay $1,500 for a preview course, however if you can get a full scholarship like I did you would be crazy not to take the course. There is absolutely no downside with taking one of these course for free, and a number of law schools offer scholarships for the Barbri course.