Tarek Fadel

Law Schools Failing Bar Prep: How Do We Solve the Dilemma?

Every day, I speak to students and law school administrators about how they can prepare for the bar exam. Throughout my conversations, I’ve noticed a trend – one that was confirmed by a recent survey conducted by AdaptiBar. The findings indicate that lower-tier schools offer more preparation for 3Ls who are prepping to take the bar exam.

When I first noticed this trend, I was surprised by the sharp difference between tier one and tier four schools. Of the 900 law students surveyed, fourth-tier students feel the most prepared and confident, and are more likely to give their schools an “A” grade in bar prep.

Although each school is preparing students by giving them a quality, well-rounded education in their classes, many aren’t offering additional prep. Whether it’s a mandatory prep course, tutors or a recommended course, a huge group of students isn’t receiving any guidance. Our survey showed that 38 percent of students said their schools don’t offer any formal bar prep, and almost one-third of aspiring lawyers gave their law schools a “D” or “F” in bar exam prep.

With the most important exam of their law school career looming, students need more guidance from their schools. I don’t advocate for schools to teach directly to the bar, but schools can take steps to help their students pass the bar exam. Otherwise, if students fail on their first try, they are stuck in debt without a job, waiting to take the bar exam again. In an age where law schools have an obligation to provide honest, accurate statistics about hiring and bar exam passage rates, it will only help the schools if they provide additional resources to help their students.

We’ve been arguing for years that every school should start preparing their students for the bar in their first year. With better evaluation earlier, there will be less bar prep panic in the 11th hour.  In addition to offering more tools like mandatory prep courses or software, options for evaluating bar exam preparedness could include evaluating students based on what professors they have had, modifying curriculum to overcome weaknesses and creating breakout groups for students based on topic.

The lack of useful bar exam prep isn’t a new issue. When I attended law school, I remember sitting in my supplemental prep course, feeling like my valuable study time was being wasted. The lecture wasn’t helping me pass the bar. The classroom setting wasn’t working for me. I knew I needed something personalized and time-efficient, so I dropped out of the course – and eventually, the bar exam itself. I decided to develop my own adaptive technology course and tested it on myself. When I took the bar and passed, I knew I’d found something that worked.

But people who don’t have the time or desire to solve the study problem themselves often turn to their schools for support – only to find that support isn’t there. According to the AdaptiBar survey, only 18 percent of the respondents attend a law school that mandates a prep course, compared to 47 percent whose schools offer an optional prep course.

As students begin to prepare for the February bar exam, now is the time for schools to offer preparation options outside of the classroom.

Tarek Fadel is the CEO and founder of Chicago-based AdaptiBar, which provides an online simulator and prep program for law school students studying for the Multistate Bar Examination. 


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