Tuesday, December 19, 2017
In this two-part series, I hope to provide you with the information you'll need to make an informed decision when you select which commercial company (or companies) you'll use to prepare for the bar exam. In Part 1, I introduced you to both full-service courses and supplemental specialty options. Now, in Part 2, I'll offer some tips and suggestions on how to make your final decision and how to get the best price.
Tip 1: Try Before You Buy
All of the full-service companies offer a free MPRE course. You should sign-up for all of the MPRE courses so that you can take a "test drive" of each company's software, digital platform, and print materials. You may find that you really like one company's website or print materials more than the others. For the specialty supplements, ask your academic support or bar support professor if they have any sample materials for you to review. Most professors get free sample copies of bar preparation materials, like the Critical Pass flashcards and Rigos outline books. And, if your professor doesn't have a copy to show you, check the law school library.
Tip 2: Haggle for Discounts
Most would agree that if you pay sticker price for a car or any product at Bed, Bath & Beyond (20% off coupons!), then you're a fool. The same is true for bar review courses. You can always get some sort of discount, if you're willing to put in a little bit of effort.
First, register for the MPRE course. In addition to the benefit of the test-drive mentioned above, you'll likely get a coupon for a few dollars off their full-review course. The emailed coupon will say something like, "Did you like the MPRE course? If so, buy our comprehensive bar review course. Here's a $50 coupon if you sign-up before the deadline." You'll also get alerted to any flash-sales that the company might be offering. (Getting too many promotional emails? Every email comes with an "opt out" or "unsubscribe" link at the bottom, so you can choose to stop receiving the promotional emails at any time.)
Second, ask the salesperson if you qualify for any special discounts. Students with a public interest law affiliation, bar association membership, or demonstrated financial hardship typically qualify for a discounted rate. These discounts may not be advertised; instead, you'll need to affirmatively ask about them.
Third, ask if the company is willing to price match. Some companies will match (or even beat) your best written offer, much like a car dealership or major retail store.
Fourth, ask for an interest-free payment plan, if you can't afford the upfront cost. Your financial aid office may also be able to re-structure your financial aid package during your last year of law school to help you with bar-exam related costs.
Tip 3: Consider Bidding for a Course
Most students will purchase their bar review course directly from the company. But each year a handful of students get a great deal on a course through some third-party source, such as a law school's public interest auction, student organization raffle, or scholarship program. Before putting down any non-refundable deposit, you should investigate whether your school will be offering an opportunity to bid on a course or apply for a scholarship program.
Tip 4: Read the Contract
Treat the bar review course buying experience like a major financial transaction. Read all of the paperwork that is presented to you. Negotiate. Don't sign anything that you don't understand or agree with. Remember, you actually have a lot of power in this buyer-seller relationship because there a lot of companies all vying for the same, small target audience (namely: you). If you need help with the process, ask you academic support or bar support professor for guidance.
Tip 5: Wait Until, at least, 2L Year to Commit
There is very little benefit to putting down a non-refundable deposit with a company during your first-year of law school. Just wait. Shop around and get to know the lay-of-the-land before committing to a $1,500-$2,500 deal. During that time you can investigate your third-party options and get quotes from all of the vendors. You may also make a new friend or join a study group during law school. If so, you may want to buy the same course as your study buddy to better enable you to study together during bar prep season. In short, you really don't need to have everything ironed until the start of your final semester of school.