Should You Get a Bar Tutor?

A question that comes up sometimes is whether one should get a bar tutor. Since I have no experience with that, I had to find out how others have dealt with this issue.

On your behalf (because no one else did), I asked three people who took the bar the second time with a tutor and passed. There is a lot of great information here for those on the fence, so pay attention!

Since I usually talk too much, I’ll let L, D and E handle it from here.

Your Experience

1. Did you use a tutor your first time?

L: No, and I think I should have.

D: No, I used Barbri. I subscribed to Baressays for their essay service and their grading service. Would recommend the essay bank but not the grading service. Just know that what they said in my graded essays was exactly what I was told NOT to do by my tutor.

E: No. My first time I used a commercial prep course (Kaplan)

2. What was your decision-making process for each time you hired a tutor?

L: As a repeater, I knew that I could not do the same exact thing again if I wanted to pass. I asked around for advice and the most common advice offered was to find a tutor. The process of hiring / selecting a tutor was a much longer process.

D: There is so little out there about tutors. I wanted a referral but just could not get it until somebody at my firm recc’d a guy. I went with him and it paid substantial dividends. I wanted a ex-bar grader also. I thought that was very important.

E: First I needed a program that provided me what I felt was missing in my studies first time around. Second, when researching tutors always ask for sample materials. If they do not provide them, they are not being professional. This includes an example calendar of what your study schedule will look like. See if your tutor has published books. What is their work history?

3. When during the study process (for example, which month, level of “uh oh”) did you decide to get a tutor?

L: Two weeks after I found out my unfortunate results. I acknowledged the fact that changing my study habits and lifestyle was a long process, and I knew it would take much longer than the first time around.

D: Right after I failed the JUly Bar I knew I had to get a tutor. I had a biglaw job on the line for my second sitting and the cost of a tutor paled to the cost in finding a new job if I failed again.

E: I decided immediately upon being notified that I did not pass the July administration. So I was very proactive and I highly recommend being proactive in the retaking process. This is your outcome. You own it. I knew by mid-Nov that I was hiring a tutor for the Feb administration.

4. Can first timers benefit from tutors, or is it better for a repeater?

L: Yes. My particular tutor assisted all types of students with various weaknesses, and he was truly familiar with all the commercial bar preps around. First-timers can benefit because most commercial bar preps are a one size fits all approach. My tutor specifically tailored my schedule and changed the concentration of my subjects based on how well I did or didn’t do during the first month of prep. This is something you cannot get without a tutor.

D: Absolutely. Had I taken my tutor the first time I would have done way better and passed.

E: If I had known the tutor’s methodology and had not caved to the pressure of taking a commercial prep course like everyone else, I hands-down would have used a tutor the first time around. Not everyone learns the same way. And a tutor is an even more targeted and personalized approach to getting you where you need to be. And when the cost is the same or less than a commercial course it seems, to me, like you are really getting more for your money. Provided that you’ve selected a good tutor.

5. Overall, was it worth it to have a tutor?

L: Yes.

D: 150%

E: I passed the exam with my tutor’s help, so a resounding YES.

Tutor Benefits

6. What was the most important thing you got out of a tutor?

L: Someone to kick my ass, in a good way. Having a conversation over my correct and incorrect answers was very valuable to me. Although detailed answers are provided in most structured commercial MBE guides and essays, I think most students inevitably have more questions. I had an expert that gave me answers no matter how stupid, tangential, or hypothetically-relevant my question was.

D: Knowledge of what the bar examiners want. I wrote onto Law Review but my writing was subpar on the first exam. It didn’t make sense. Having a tutor clarified everything.

E: First was a roadmap on how to navigate essays and PTs. Systematically broken down in a way that I could apply to any essay or PT put in front of me. It really removed a lot of the stress. Second, a system for developing issue spotting so that nothing would be a surprise. Third, a great memorization technique. This is something I hate doing and having a system helped enormously.

7. What kind of services does a tutor typically provide? What’s the fee structure like?

L: My tutor was paid by the hour, billed by the tenth of any hour like any lawyer. He also offered a 30-day “pass” that offered more grading and advice with a cheaper rate if a student takes full advantage of the 30 days. I moved to the 30-day plan during my last 6 weeks of preparation.

D: MOst will give a flat fee ($3000) and some will give an hourly fee ($250/hour). Beware with the hourly because htye charge for EVERYTHING.

E: Essay help should be the majority. Most will default to commercial prep on the MBE study. Some break segments of their program into itemized pieces. It will depend on the tutor. A full program (the “total package”) could run upwards of $5,000.

8. What would you tell people who are on the fence about getting a tutor?

L: You can’t work as a lawyer until you pass the bar. Retaking the bar is far more expensive that hiring a tutor. Do your diligence and find a tutor that works for you and make an investment with your time and money.

D: If you have a job on the line, get one. NOt even a question.

E: Be proactive. Get information from them. Learn what they can do for you that you will not get from a commercial prep course. Some people are fine with commercial prep, but I don’t see anyone falling short of their best chances to succeed with the guidance of a good tutor. Nothing is ever a guarantee, of course, but if your tutor is high quality it will not hurt your chances solely because it is a tutor and not a commercial course.

9. How would you suggest people find a good tutor?

L: I would go in this order in researching good tutors: ask your law school > find other people that used tutors > cross reference those tutors with reviews on yelp or some other site > interview that tutor (this will be free).

Tutors work FOR you! Treat it like an interview and make sure to check their credentials.

D: It’s so hard. There are so many scams out there. Steve Zickman is a scam. Sherri Karney is a scam. THey demand $$$$$$ upfront. In fact, on my call with Sherri, she tried to get me to sign up for the Platinum package at $12,000. I did some research and found people who didn’t pass. Can you imagine dropping $12,000 and failing? Zickman I heard wasn’t as expensive but a pretty bad tutor. Stopped responding with two weeks left, no review of the exam. God, just thining about these two makes my stomach churn. So glad I didn’t go with either.

E: Ask law firms if they use any tutors for their incoming laterals. Google searching and Yelp reviews are fine, but find the people that the industry actually trusts and uses for their employees.

10. Any other suggestions or protips that didn’t fit with the above questions?

L: Getting a tutor isn’t for everyone, just like law school. If anyone is on the fence about it or is even considering it, then perhaps you are the person that actually needs a tutor. Any slight benefit on the bar can set you apart from not passing, to passing. When I was hesitant about hiring a tutor, a friend told me “Just do it, it’s a drop in the bucket,” and it really is. Now that I have finally passed I have my dream job and the cost of having that tutor did not phase me at all. This a bar and California is the hardest bar there is. There is absolutely no shame in asking pros for help!

D: Ya, I would recc either John Crossfield (~$3500) or if you are strpped for cash, Joe Buffington (Hourly, super accommodating and wont cheat you). Both are amazing. And for the record, I get nothing out of recommending these two. Only the satisfaction that I am sharing a resource that I found invaluable.

E: Not at the moment. Just to stick to what your tutor gives you religiously. Don’t question the method. Let it wash over you and consume you. Truly give in to it. Then emerge a lawyer.

Now I want to ask you: Did anyone convince you to get a tutor? Convince you NOT to get one? Why?

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