Seeking LSAT help.
July 19, 2013 10:44 AM   Subscribe

Please help me find the best LSAT prep course or tutor available in the Bay Area. Extra special edition: returning student at the ripe old age of 38.

I'm deeply regret not going to the law schools I got into long ago, and I'm trying to make a big career change at age 38. When I applied the last time I scored 169 without a prep course, and that combined with my undergrad GPA got me into all the biggies. But I'm very rusty and not as appealing as a candidate the second time around when all my undergrad victories were in the near past as opposed to the distant past. As a result, I want to take a course as insurance. I am shooting for Stanford and Berkeley (trying to stay local) so would like to get my score safely in the 170s.

I am happy to hear reflections from those who attended law school in their advanced years, or at least when they were no longer spring chickens.
posted by Corrective_Lenses to Education (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I taught for Powerscore for a bit while between jobs a few years ago. I thought they had a good system for breaking down the questions, especially the logic problems. I never had a system myself, but teaching the course allowed me to understand the questions in a deeper and more systematic way. As for the students in my classes, they improved their scores in practice tests, though I can't say I know how they ultimately did on the real thing. I think the biggest advantage people saw, and one that would be helpful to you given your current scores, is getting faster at completing the sections. Also, I think Powerscore and Testmasters are pretty similar in their approach to LSAT prep. I have heard less positive things about the quality of the Kaplan courses. Some people might find using the books sufficient. I will of course refrain from commenting on the current value proposition of law school.
posted by bepe at 11:01 AM on July 19, 2013


I'm assuming you've fully educated yourself about the dismal state of the law and are, as Ruthless Bunny notes, are both independently wealthy, currently employed at the one or two jobs worse than lawyer (manure taster, e.g.), and have concluded you are one of the few people for whom law school actually makes any sense whatsoever.

In any event, I was an older law student--which generally means anything over 22-24. I think I was 27-ish and finished school when I was 30-ish. At least at my school 1) all the older people hung out together, 2) almost all of law review and the leadership of the other journals was older students, and 3) the plurality (or maybe majority) of the people to receive honors and high honors were older students. I don't know whether it was because we were smarter, or more dedicated, or had more experience--but we excelled beyond the spring chickens.

But, again, this was a different time. When I graduated law school, jobs were plentiful, especially at my school, and there were some who may not have felt the specter of unemployment and crushing, soul-sucking debt nipping at their heels. I have, on occasion, had the misfortune of mingling with current law students, and found them to be commonly seized with panic and despair and self-reproach for the folly of matriculation. It may be that everyone has stepped up their game now (though perhaps the older students continue to lead the pack).

I took a Kaplan course, and it was fine, but I think one could derive the same result from using test prep books. The real benefit is the diagnostic analysis the course provides when you submit your practice tests, but meh, you could probably suss out your weak areas by eyeballing your results.

In conclusion, don't go to law school.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:17 AM on July 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think I did testmasters? They were decent. I sat it twice, to get my score up.

Want all my LSAT stuff? I've got a box full.

I'd agree that you should think very carefully about going to law school. Even senior lawyers can't really grasp how bad it is starting out right now.

Note that I'm in a particularly grim mood at the moment as I'm studying for the bar and realizing that I never developed the super efficient checklist style exam skills that you're supposed to in law school, and may need to put off life for another 6 mo while I handle that. (As the bar exam is twice yearly.)

This can be a long road, and right now all signs are that its likely to get even less rewarding before things reverse themselves (hopefully some time in the dimly foreseeable future).
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:47 AM on July 19, 2013


I prepared using the Powerscore Logic Games Bible and taught for Kaplan. Powerscore is much better. A lot of Kaplan's advice isn't going to be helpful for students aiming to score in the high 170s (a lot along the lines of: "figure out what kind of questions you're bad at, so you can skip them to focus on others").

And, yes, as Admiral Haddock said, don't go to law school. You made the right decision when you passed on law school fifteen years ago. Everything about law school and the legal profession has gotten much, much worse in the intervening years. Why on Earth would you want to reconsider?

As I've said in a previous thread:
The only people who should go to law school, in the current legal economy, are those who:
(a) Really want to be lawyers;
(b) Know what it means to be a lawyer; and
(c) Can get into:
(i) Harvard, Yale, or Stanford;
(ii) Columbia, Chicago, or NYU with significant scholarship funding; or
(iii) any of the other T-14 schools (Michigan, Berkeley, Duke, Cornell, Georgetown, Northwestern, Penn or UVA) with a full-ride.
The fact that you previously got into law school, yet chose not to go, suggests that you flunk requirement (a). Even if you hadn't already passed on law school once, I find it extraordinarily hard to believe that anyone would want to be a 43-year-old junior associate trying to pay off $200k of non-dischargeable debt by staying up til 2:00 a.m. doing document review or putting together binders under the supervision of some 30-year-old mid-level associate. And that's the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is the same debt with no job.
posted by ewiar at 11:57 AM on July 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I should add that I'm (a few weeks away from) 33. Both my parents are lawyers. My mom is a just-retired LS prof.

You're welcome to memail me if you like.
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:04 PM on July 19, 2013


Former full-time LSAT instructor, current old law student (36) who is very happy with his decision to go to one of the lower top-14 schools on a somewhat less than half discount:

It's tough to nail down the name of the best tutor in the Bay Area because LSAT tutors tend to go off and do other things after a year or two of tutoring. Classes vary somewhat from company to company, but mostly depend on the quality of the individual teacher. In general, I'd recommend looking for a teacher who has at least 6 months or preferably a year of experience working at one of the companies that pays high salaries. This includes companies like TestMasters and Powerscore, as mentioned above, as well as some others. As far as Kaplan and Princeton Review, some excellent teachers work for these companies, as well as an even larger number of mediocre ones (these companies pay significantly less, and thus have lower hiring standards).

The Bay Area in particular seems to be full of LSAT gurus, so it shouldn't be hard to find a great teacher, I wouldn't worry about trying to find the "best", just someone you're comfortable with. I happen to personally know and have attended classes as part of training with the current teacher for TestMaster's summer class in San Francisco, which you can find at testmasters.net. I can assure you that she is an excellent teacher and a friendly person, with many years of experience. Disclosure: I still am employed by TestMasters, but I will in no way benefit from the addition of an extra student to their SF class.
posted by skewed at 1:41 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Powerscore and Testmasters are definitely better for students aiming to score high. Also, Blueprint uses similar techniques.

A lot of Kaplan's advice isn't going to be helpful for students aiming to score in the high 170s (a lot along the lines of: "figure out what kind of questions you're bad at, so you can skip them to focus on others").

I agree with this for their regular LSAT course. Kaplan does now offer (or did offer a few years ago?) an advanced LSAT course for people who are shooting for the 170s. Nonetheless, I would still recommend the other three companies over Kaplan's advanced class. I think their curriculum is better and more helpful.

Having said all that, I think that if you're already capable of getting a 169, tutoring will help you more than a class, because at that point you are looking to do well on the most difficult questions, and even the better courses will spend a fair amount of time teaching foundational stuff that you don't really need.
posted by Carmelita Spats at 3:04 PM on July 19, 2013


So some of the answers are making me think I need to find an LSAT tutor rather than a class. Any tips on finding one?
posted by Corrective_Lenses at 3:20 PM on July 19, 2013


A good, experienced tutor in the bay area will likely run $100 or more, which I think is ridiculous even when I'm getting it. If that's too much for you, I'd recommend checking out the LSAT forums at top law schools.com. you can get pretty good free advice there, though the signal to noise ratio can be low at times.

I'd do some self prep for a couple of weeks to see where you're at. Then maybe get a tutor to focus on your weaknesses.
posted by skewed at 8:02 AM on July 20, 2013


I have a close friend who is a private LSAT tutor in Palo Alto. In order to not make this a commercial shill, you can memail me if you want and I'll put you in touch.

Otherwise, more general advice: take another practice test, see where you are first. Back in the day, I scored 170 w/o a course and 175 after a Kaplan course, so that worked for me to, I guess, sand off rough edges. Or maybe it was just the practice: it's hard to really tell what the value-added is for these courses.

Also, I agree with everything ewiar said about the reasons to go/not to go to law school. And I practiced law for a number of years, and am now in academia.
posted by paultopia at 2:17 PM on July 20, 2013


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