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May 15, 2012


We could give every American the equivalent of a college education over something like The Learning Channel. Every so often, they'd have to visit a standardized testing center where some would flunk, but we could make education a lot more cost-effective that way.

Of course, it will never happen for the very reason that universities are chock full of professors with PhD's that are otherwise useless degrees, but who make the rules that students have to take their courses to get a credential.

Do you actually learn anything besides how to pass the bar?

Half Sigma,
Thank you for saying the things that I am too timid to say on my blog!

I have three friends who are teachers. They worry about the emphasis placed on standardized tests. They worry about teachers who "teach to the test." These friends refuse to understand that standardized tests are the best way to determine who is better.

In the future, will the Bar Exam be deemed racist? If tests for police and fire staff can be deemed racist, why not the lawyer test?

I used BAR/BRI to pass two state bars. It works like a charm, though it isn't cheap. The first time, I watched the lectures on a television with other students.

The second time, I actually watched all of the lectures alone on an iPod Touch. We're talking LONG HOURS in front of a small screen. It was hell taking another bar exam years after being a practicing attorney, but I did it.

It's amazing what the brain can retain if given a steady diet of stress ("What if I FAIL?"), determination, and caffeine.

Half Sigma is on target here. The biggest revelation about BAR/BRI is that law school can really be boiled down to a few months. It ain't med school.

I'm curious... If you can't ask questions, what is the value of attending a live seminar vs. viewing a recorded one? If the value is basically the same, why pay more to attend live? Taken one step further, why pay at all if you can download a pirated recording for free?

[HS: It's more fun and easier to pay attention if you are there live. Which is really important given how boring it is to do nothing but study.]

Just buy the prior year's books off Amazon for $100-200 and study. Seriously, the lectures don't do anything magical.

I would go as far as to say that an extended BarBri-type course could prepare one for legal practice just as well as the current law school system. Of course, the current law school system is horrible because we pretend it is some academic exercise instead of trade school. That is why graduates come out of school not knowing even basics such as how to answer a complaint.

I remember Chemerinsky's BarBri lecture series because he referred to no notes and had no podium. He just stood in the middle of a room giving a lecture that tracked the outline in the workbook. I had thought there was an off-camera teleprompter but I have learned from those who have attended live that he delivers it from memory. (My BarBri class had taped lectures)

BarBri essay questions were a joke. On a lark, I once I wrote them back their model answer on an essay question and got a crappy grade on it, so I wrote that off as the waste of time it was.

I also recommend PMBR for MBE prep. I took the three-day course, which was fine, but what I really appreciated was their big book of practice questions. PMBR questions are hard and I credit the score for my MBE score, which was somewhere in the low/mid 160s. Not a stellar score but good enough for a test where I only needed a 136.

I might as well describe Florida's bar exam. Two days, with one day being the MBE and the other being Florida law. The Florida day has three essays questions and 100 multiple choice. The multiple choice are just a few sentences long and ridiculously easy. (MBE multiple choice questions can be several paragraphs). The passing score for the exam is 136, and that can be an average of the two equally-weighted sections. And, if you flunk one section, they will hold your passing score for the next two years' worth of sessions. A classmate of mine from law school passed the MBE but failed the Florida section, so he only had to retake Florida for the next two years. Well, he didn't so then he had to keep taking the full exam. I cannot remember for him if the 8th or 9th time was a charm, but it was definitely worse than Cousin Vinny.

I'd prefer watching the recorded one, since that way if I temporarily lose my attention (which I inevitably will), I can always rewind a few minutes and get back on track... rather than then being lost for good in the live session.

Personal preference, I guess

I'm in a small flyover state with only one BAR/BRI event yearly. I thought that course and law school worked great together. But one would not work without the other. BAR/BRI reinforced the practical knowledge I had picked up about state law. You're a walking encyclopedia of law after that. Combined with my clinical practice, I hit the ground running in my solo practice.

BAR/BRI without law school would give you something like the cocky paralegals who think they don't need no stinking lawyer to give out advice. (I feel the same about PA's: Too certain of their own expertise.)

We had local practitioners as lecturers, at least on the state topics, and we could ask questions. But after 3 years of LS, students are weary and want to just get it done, so everyone knows better than to waste time with useless inquiries.

We had about an 80% pass rate IIRC. In contrast, the accounting majors lost their CPA prep course and had a dismal pass rate.

when are you gonna talk about the last episode of "Girls"?

What you describe is what Asian education looks like. Lots of students crammed into a classroom, teacher lectures, and students copy down what the teacher says. In terms of transmitting useful knowledge to the students, that is the best mode of doing so.

Law is a profession based on specific set of knowledge. But for many other types of jobs, particularly in the business field, what you know doesn't really matter - it is the prestige/signal of the school you went to and the people who you drank beer with for 4 years. I suspect that BAR/BRI model of education will not take off for the upper stratum because it lacks the crucial "class" component of "education."

I've long thought diversity is overrated in college. I happened to have gone to an Ivy, but I don't think I really learned from people who were that by affirmative action. I think Ivies admit them partly because somebody has to be at the bottom of the curve.

If you want a vision of the future of education, imagine a Columbia educated SWPL running PUA game on a Seton Hall grad in the back of a BAR/BRI session -- forever.

I was able to pass the PA bar exam 8 years out of law school based solely on BAR/BRI. When i in school i took the closest things to gut courses i could find, like "race and american law". aside from the 1L curriculum, i didn't take a single class that was tested on the bar. i learned everything about conflicts, commercial paper, corporations, family law from the lectures and i remember them being great, usually very funny and the "no questions" part was the best--what wastes your time in school more than other students dumb-ass questions, nothing

From there:
[]... The facts of this case demonstrate the inadequacy of broad and general testing devices, as well as the infirmity of using diplomas or degrees as fixed measures of capability. ... []

Half Sigma, do you think a person can get the equivalent of a college education by studying online independently? Utilizing such sources as MIT Open Source and Coursera.

I had some excellent physics and a stellar astronomy course that were taught by asking the students questions. They assumed that you were doing homework and reading, so they try and pull out some of the trickier concepts by asking basic questions to the students. The process of asking questions and students making stupid guesses slows down the process and makes you think about it where a simple lecture will just gloss over it and you'll just memorize it later. However, these were advanced physics classes where there weren't many complete morons.

This is one those posts that is literally accurate but irrelevant. Snobbery is a big part of the way human beings live, and nowhere more so than in law practice. So law school is needed to establish rank. Put it another way - what would women in bars do if they couldn't ask, "where did you go to law school?"


An example can be made that many medical and engineering specialties work the same way as law. People go to engineering or technical school to go into STEM. But when they get a job in something like Environmental engineering, they attended cram schools at places like Oak Ridge National Laboratory to get the EPA required certifications to actually do environmental work.

There are also cram schools to teach residents to pass their board exams, help healthcare workers to get their state licenses, and there are on-line courses for any career fields that requires certificaiton such as Industrial Hygiene.

I remember the lecturers did allow questions when they were done.

"If the world were to take my suggestion that college education should be replaced by standardized tests, then education in the future would like more like the BAR/BRI model."

Bravo! Uproarious applause! Standing ovation!

Today in the US about 80% of the "work force" doesn't actually do anything. There is a 20% which produces and an 80% which steals. The work of this 20% may be quite difficult and may pay well though.

Higher education is an enormous parasite. A professor is a thief even if his subject is engineering or natural science insofar as his income is derived from "teaching".

The "service economy" is bullshit, but the now prevailing neo-liberal/Washington consensus ideology can't understand this, so the thief sector keeps expanding.

"If the world were to take my suggestion that college education should be replaced by standardized tests, then education in the future would like more like the BAR/BRI model."

Some might think, naively, that the only reason why the giant tick that is higher ed continues as it has is that HS is a minority in this opinion.

Higher ed not changing with the printing press and the reintroduction of paper into Europe, not changing with recorded sound, not changing with VHS or automated grading, etc. is a great example of the inertia of social institutions.

Most who've had similar thoughts to HS's here will convince themselves of some bullshit reason like "socialization" for higher ed's current form or that there is some good reason for higher ed having the form it has but they just don't see it, etc.

It's the only way to relieve the discomfort of knowing that the institution is parasitic and that one is powerless to change it.

It's a case of mass insanity combined with criminality just like organized religion.

I wonder how smart professors can really be. If they understand that they're parasites how can they not quit? If they don't understand how can they be very smart?

One of my smarter professors made up some bullshit excuse. He said that although he himself hadn't benefited at all from "instruction" he thought other lesser mortals might.

But how smart could he be and believe his own bullshit?

People go to engineering or technical school to go into STEM. But when they get a job in something like Environmental engineering, they attended cram schools at places like Oak Ridge National Laboratory to get the EPA required certifications to actually do environmental work.

The certifications are, by and large, a joke. Most of the actually useful knowledge is transmitted by the employer to the employee; the engineering degree is to give them enough technical background that new technical material will actually be absorbed. Environmental engineering is one of the worst areas for this because the rules, and the science, keep changing. Until you've formed relationships with state regulators, you never have more than a few years experience, because anything you did more than a few years ago is obsolete.

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