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Monday, June 9, 2008

Generation Y can study for the bar exam via iPod

I remember back when I was studying for the bar way back in the ancient days when you had only two choices for bar review courses -- go to the "live" lectures or watch the group videos in a classroom full of other recent law school grads. My alma mater -- Boston College Law School -- only provided a video option. In order to attend the "live" lectures, I would have had to have commuted to Boston University School of Law. Because it was more convenient to attend the classes at BC, I settled for spending the month of June watching the video replays with about 100 to 150 other students in a sweltering unairconditioned classroom on the BC campus.

Bar review courses such as BarBri now offer an iPod option. That's right, you can sit at a library carrel, at your desk at home or even by a lake and listen on your iPod to an instructor drone on about adverse possession or the elements of a tort. It'll just be you and Arthur Miller (or whatever other notable law professor is doing the reading of that day's lesson). For convenience, you can't beat it.

Yet I can't help feeling like something might be lost doing it that way. (And I'm trying not to sound too much like crotchety "60 Minutes" commentator Andy Rooney when I say this.) While sitting in the summer heat under the florescent bulbs of a classroom was a less than ideal way to spend an early summer, it was an experience that built camaraderie -- a sort of boot camp for lawyers-to-be. When you graduated law school, you knew you'd see many of your friends at those courses. After a sizzling hot day of torts, you might grab a bite to eat or a drink with your fellow students and commiserate about the grainy video you just watched on mens rea. Attending the classes together also encouraged students to study together rather than on their own. Spitballing ideas and concepts back and forth was a great way to learn.

While the undeniable convenience of the iPod may one day relegate the shared bar-review class to the dustbin of history (along with analog TV), I hope recent law alums will continue to have the good sense to make at least some portion of their bar-exam study a communal activity. There's something to be said for socializing and breaking bread together as you crack the books. You can't split a pizza via text message.


Anonymous said...

As a recent grad and former BarBri student rep, I think the large review classes will stick around and be popular mainly because of the additional cost of the iPod study option ($1,000 above the ~$2500 price for MN, although you get $500 back when you return the iPod).
The biggest benefit for having the iPod option available is for those people wanting to take the exam in a jurisdiction that is logistically difficult to get to- you don't have to move early to attend lectures to study for the bar- just fire up your iPod no matter where you are. There were also people that lived well outside the MSP metro area that used them saving the cost/time to travel into town (which adds up with the currest price of gas).

Another minor benefit is the ability to listen to various parts of the lectures again to clarify points that are confusing. Of course, most people can't do this and lots pass, so missing a few minor points of a lecture probably won't kill you.

Mark Cohen, editor said...

Thanks. Excellent points. This was actually very informative. iPod learning for those taking other states' bars or living outside the metro makes a lot of sense.

I also did not know you had to rent the iPod. I assume that this is a control measure whereby they are able to lock the iPod so you can't share the file with fellow students. I also suppose it would be pretty funny to have the entire BarBri course as a $3,500 download from iTunes ...

We will see what the future holds. Someday for an extra $500 BarBri may just download the entire course directly into your brain ...