Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Waddling Thunder posts a comment on JD2B's link to's review of pre-law school preparation courses, like Law Preview and Bar/Bri's equivalent.

WT says: "These companies are preying on people who don't know better. Please, for the sake of your pocketbook, don't take these courses. I don't care who teaches them, or how good they might seem, or how confident "graduates" look the week after getting out. They're a waste of time, money, and effort, and all you get in return is a reputation as a gunner if word ever gets out about you."

And I totally agree. Basically. I think in general they're probably pretty useless. Even if you're nervous about law school and feel like you'd be more comfortable knowing some background about each of your first-year classes -- even though it's really, really, really not necessary, and you really, really, really shouldn't be worried about this -- instead of paying $1000, or whatever it is these things cost, go onto and download the free course outlines, and take a quick glance. You'll probably find them pretty boring, but if you're really, really worried about this, they do give a nice summary of the courses. You won't find it particularly useful, I don't think -- maybe on day one, if the professor starts talking about the overall scheme of the course, you'll know some vocabulary your classmates don't, but if it'll put your mind at ease, maybe worth a day or two of your time. But they're free. Free.

As opposed to these courses. 3 problems I can think of with the courses that are more subtle that the overall fact that they're useless wastes of money and time:

1. Each professor teaches his or her course differently. So you may in fact spend a week learning stuff that your professor won't require you to learn -- or stuff that they intentionally don't want you to know right at the beginning, because they have their own way of presenting material so it makes the most sense in their scheme. For example, in contracts class we learned remedies first, and spent a good 3 or 4 weeks talking about what you do when contracts are broken before looking at all about what a contract is. And the professor had a reason, and wanted to teach it that way so we could see contracts from a certain angle and with a certain understanding... so if I had taken one of these courses beforehand, I would have gotten less out of my contracts class. Would have not just been a waste of money, but a real academic negative, potentially impacting my grade in a bad way.

2. Like Wadding Thunder says, socially it can't possibly help. Even if you don't tell anyone, any knowledge you have that comes out in class will brand you a gunner, or a suck-up, or some other negative thing. I know of one person whose comments in class seemed to indicate that she may have read some stuff before starting school, and always seemed "too informed" about the topics in class. This became the subject of a few lunchtime conversations and probably didn't help her make friends right away. Personally, I think holding stuff like that against somebody is stupid. But other people may feel differently. Why risk it?

3. With the $1000 you might spend on these courses, you can probably pay a 3L to take your exams for you. Problem solved.

Of course, I'm kidding about #3. Mostly because I decided I had 3 points to make before I figured out what I was going to say, and so I had a #3 I needed to fill. But #1 and #2 are real and honest. These courses don't provide anything you need.

INTERESTING THOUGHT: If, by some stroke of magic, your 1L professor is teaching the course -- and you somehow know this before you need to sign up -- I wonder whether it would be a help (get to know the prof, no risk you'll be taught something other than what you need) or a hurt (prof sees you as a desperate, worried law student being sucked into these stupid courses). Certainly I can't imagine it's a $1000 help in any event. But what an interesting situation that would be. Something to ponder while you incoming 1Ls wade through the piles of material about health insurance, dorm life, and financial aid I'm sure you're being bombarded with.