As a law student, the joy and excitement of graduation quickly fades once the realization sets in that you’ll be spending the bulk of your Summer studying for the Bar Exam, a mandatory test law-school grads must pass before they can practice law.
Preparing for the Bar Exam is a rigorous and time consuming process, and much like other professional exams, students routinely pay thousands of dollars for standardized review courses.
In the legal world, the biggest purveyor of bar review classes is a company called BarBri, and the cost of their intensive review courses can run in excess of $3500. As a note of interest, BarBri is currently embroiled in a class action lawsuit for allegedly engaging in price fixing with rival companies to prevent undercutting and keep prices sky high.
But in a sign of the times, a virtual competitor to BarBri has emerged in the form of an iPhone app called BarMax CA that promises to prepare students for the bar exam for just $1,000, an asking price that makes it the most expensive app on iTunes, but still significantly cheaper than BarBri. As the name suggests, the app is currently tailored for the bar exam in California, though the developers are looking to expand and include tailored bar review courses for New York along with 5 other states before the end of the year.
But the most important issue in discussing this app is whether or not it’s actually worth paying for.
The Bar Exam is no joke, and the developers of this iPhone app, to their credit, aren’t treating it as such and are really striving to deliver a lot of bang for the buck. BarMax CA touts itself as a complete solution for law students, and according to the app description, it certainly seems to deliver. Included in the app are audio lectures and outlines that cover all 12 topics of the California Bar Exam, over 1,000 review flashcards organized by subject, skeleton outlines for note taking, 1,371 practice multiple choice questions from previous bar exams, 102 real California essay questions with sample answers, 18 real California performance tests with sample answers, study tips, and finally, live e-mail support with the app development team (which is comprised of lawyers from Harvard, Georgetown, and USC).
It goes without saying, though, that looking at an iPhone screen for hours on end probably isn’t the most efficient or beneficial way to study for a bar exam. For as much as we live in a digital age, you still can’t replace old-fashioned studying with mp3 files, a digital outline, and a virtual keyboard for taking notes. The developers of BarMax CA thankfully understand that going digital isn’t necessarily a replacement for more conventional forms of studying, but rather a helpful alternative. In that vein, all of the material available in the app is also included in a MS Word document that users can print out if they want to study the old fashioned way.
As someone who’s actually taken a bar exam, BarMax CA definitely seems to be an interesting option because many students are able to pass the bar exam simply by studying on their own with BarBri materials purchased on the “black market” (BarBri forbids users from re-selling their books, though you can find plenty on eBay and Craigslist.) In other words, you don’t need a classroom experience to pass the bar, you just need the right material to study. From the looks of it, BarMax CA seems to deliver the goods, though it’s still too early to tell if the breadth of material and explanations is as extensive as those provided by BarBri. Either way, it’s a step in the right direction if you’re tired of the BarBri monopoly.
Moving on, let’s say you’re interested in the BarMax app but don’t happen to have an iPhone or iPod Touch. In that case, BarMax will loan you an iPod Touch free of charge. By way of comparison, the cost of BarBri in California is currently $3600. And if you want to access BarBri materials digitally on your iPhone, BarBri charges users another $750 to upgrade to “BarBri Mobile”, which brings the total purchase price up to $4350.
And all of a sudden, $1,000 doesn’t seem so expensive after all.
You can check out the app on iTunes over here.