By Joe K. Edited by Lemon Law School
If you’re a third-year law student (3L), you’re probably thinking about how you are going to study for the bar exam. There are several ways of planning your bar studies, but the most common route is to take a bar exam preparation course, especially if your law firm will be footing the $1200+ course fees.
For these students, the question is not whether to take a bar prep course but which bar prep course to take. When I was a 3L in law school, these bar prep courses would set up tables in our law school buildings promoting their courses and entice students with anything from free iPads to gift cards to sign up for their courses.
With the noise of all these sales pitches, it can be difficult to discern the true difference among these bar courses. I know that when I was a law student, these courses all looked exactly the same to me.
To help future 3Ls choose the best bar prep course, I will provide a detailed review about the Themis Bar Review course in this article. I personally used Themis for bar prep and passed the New York Bar Exam.
- Executive Summary
- What Does Themis Bar Review Offer?
- Pros of Themis Bar Review
- Cons of Themis Bar Review
- 1. A few lecturers (I think one or two) were less than stellar at organizing and presenting the material.
- 2. Some of the textbooks are missing organizational features.
- 3. Themis recycles assigned MBE questions in the “extra practice” mode.
- 4. Most of Themis’ practice MBE questions aren’t actually old MBE questions.
- 5. For international students: Some hypotheticals provided in the lecture handouts may be unclear to international students initially.
- Final Thoughts
If you diligently complete the Themis Bar Review course, you will likely pass the bar exam. Themis covers everything you need to know to pass the bar. They pretty much spoon-feed the material to you.
In addition to providing about 3,000 MBE questions for practice and many opportunities to complete exam essays graded by their attorneys, they also provide insight into the most commonly tested topics so you can adjust your focus accordingly.
Themis Bar Review does have a few cons, discussed in detail below, but these less than ideal shortcomings will not meaningfully affect your ability to pass the bar exam.
What Does Themis Bar Review Offer?
Themis Bar Review provides an online course where they create a study schedule for you with a number of tasks to complete each day. As you complete these tasks, a progress bar will slowly fill up.
If you happen to ambitiously finish more tasks than assigned for the day, your calendar of tasks will automatically readjust to account for the extra progress you’ve made – meaning you will have less tasks for each day to complete going forward (and vice versa).
Generally, the course will take around 2 months to fully complete. This timeline changes depending on how quickly or slowly you progress through the tasks each day. Expect to spend around 5-6 hours per day studying with Themis.
And of course, Themis has programmed certain “rest” days into your study schedule so you don’t burn out.
Type of Tasks
Themis will send you a set of textbooks covering several legal topics. As you know, depending on your state bar’s requirements, you will need to learn basic black letter law from a number of legal topics.
Most of these topics will usually cover your first-year doctrinal courses in law school (i.e., contracts, property, torts, etc.). Depending on the state administering your bar exam, other common legal topics may include the law of evidence, family law, professional responsibility, and business associations (corporations, partnerships, etc.).
One of your daily tasks may include reading an outline prepared by Themis about a legal topic like Contracts. These outlines can be pretty dense (as much as 100 pages long) since they include pretty much everything you need to know about that field of law for the bar exam.
However, don’t fret – you don’t have to actually read every word written in these long outlines. You may have covered these topics in your law school courses (like your 1L contracts class), so you can just skim through to refresh your memory or to give yourself a quick introduction. The majority of your learning will actually come from doing the practice questions and essays.
Recorded Video Lectures
Themis will assign recorded video lectures for you to watch. These lectures are led by actual law professors and other legal professionals from around the nation. The lecturers will cover the important, commonly tested topics in the giant outline that you will have skimmed or read as assigned beforehand.
Along with these video lectures, Themis will provide lecture notes for you to follow along with random blanks everywhere for you to fill in as you learn the information. These lecture notes are included in one of your Themis textbooks. You can also download a digital copy from the online course if you prefer to type it in.
Each legal topic covered may have anywhere from 10 to 30 videos to watch. For instance, property is going to have many more videos than a topic like business associations.
Each video can range from 3 to 25 minutes long, depending on the complexity of the legal topic. Each day, you may be assigned anywhere from 10 to 20 videos to watch for a particular legal topic.
At the end of each video, you’ll have a short multiple choice quiz to complete. The questions in this quiz are pretty straightforward and nothing like the actually multistate bar examination (MBE) or uniform bar examination (UBE) questions. As discussed later in this article, Themis will assign a set of MBE/UBE-like questions for practice.
After finishing all of the video lectures for a particular legal topic, Themis will have you complete an essay workshop. This essay workshop is another set of 2 to 3 video lectures. In these lectures, the lecturer will go over commonly tested essay topics and how to approach them.
They will also provide an attack outline in your textbook and make it digitally available for download.
Practice Essays and Graded Essays
After the essay workshop, Themis will assign practice essays where they will provide an actual essay prompt used in a previous administration of the bar exam.
Once you open the assignment, you’ll see the essay prompt, a window for you to input your answer, and a timer to remind you of your time limit. Here, the timer won’t kick you out of the assignment if you run out of time.
Upon clicking the submit button, Themis will provide an answer key for you to grade your response.
Every week, Themis will also assign graded essays. These are identical to the practice essays except the timer will force you to automatically submit your answer once you run out of time.
Upon submission of your response, whether voluntary or not, Themis will give you their sample response. In addition, your essay response will be forwarded to one of their attorneys who will grade your essay.
The grader will take a few days to grade your essay and provide their score and feedback on your response.
Practice MBE/UBE Questions
After completing a set of videos for a legal topic, Themis will have you complete a set of 30 MBE/UBE questions in their online module. A timer will count down as you make your way through the set of questions.
Some of these questions are actual bar exam questions whereas others will be MBE/UBE-like questions developed by Themis’ psychometricians.
As you complete more and more question sets, the number of questions in each set may increase. Themis will assign up to 50 or 100 questions per set eventually.
This is where the real learning occurs. Bar exam multiple choice questions tend to follow a formula, and the more questions you do, the more familiar you will be with different types of questions.
After completing a set of practice MBE questions for the first time in a legal topic like contracts, Themis will assign an MBE workshop. This is basically a set of 2-3 video lectures providing answer explanations for the set of MBE questions you just completed.
The lecturer will explain why each answer choice is right or wrong and offer small tips here and there for tackling each question.
Multistate Performance Test (MPT) Practice Essays
In addition to writing law school-like essays, you’ll have to complete a performance test as part of the bar exam. This section will ask you to read a “library” of facts, evidence, and made-up black letter law and ultimately produce some sort of legal work product. This can include writing memos for a law firm partner, drafting discovery documents, and more.
The point of this section is to test your ability to quickly read and synthesize new facts and laws and, most importantly, to follow their directions. The essay prompt will tell you everything you need to know about formatting and drafting your work product. Most states will provide a 90-minute time limit for this section.
To help you prepare for this section, Themis will have you watch a video lecture introducing this section. Throughout the bar review course, you will practice writing MPT responses. After completing a response, Themis will provide a sample answer and a video lecture explaining the proper way to approach the essay prompt.
Personalized Support For Questions about Substantive Law
Eventually, you will have a question about the substantive law you are learning. The textbook outline is a great place to look for answers, but sometimes you’ll just be stumped.
Themis has a service (included with your bar prep course) where you can submit any questions you have about the substantive law you are learning and one of their attorneys will answer your question. There is no limit to the number of questions you can ask.
Pros of Themis Bar Review
1. Themis really holds your hand throughout the study process.
As discussed above, Themis will tell you exactly what to do each day so that you are prepared by the time you take your exam. The video lectures will directly tell you how to approach different topics and sections of the bar exam.
Essentially, you don’t need to craft your own study schedule and compile your own study materials. It’s all in one place with Themis, and they will hold your hand throughout the process.
In fact, Themis claims that nearly everyone who completes at least 75% of the bar prep course passes their bar exam. However, this may be a little misleading.
I know other students will use other bar prep tools such as AdaptiBar during the last few weeks of their bar studies. It’s more likely most of these students completed 75% of Themis and then ditched the course completely to drill themselves with MBE questions from AdaptiBar. I know many of my friends in law school did that.
Nevertheless, I personally completed 96% of Themis’ course and passed the New York bar exam without the aid of other bar prep materials.
3. Themis finds ways to keep you engaged in your bar studies.
Let’s face it – studying for the bar exam sucks. The exam itself forces you to learn useless things that you probably will never ever encounter in the actual practice of law. No lawyer is going to need to memorize personal injury law…that’s why law schools teach you to perform legal research.
Nevertheless, you have to brute-force memorize textbooks of legal topics to pass the bar exam. Although it’s impossible to make studying for bar exams fun, Themis tries their best to keep you engaged.
Have you ever had a really entertaining law school professor that was amazing at their job? Some of the Themis lecturers do just that. They break down the black letter law in an organized and engaging way. The Themis property lecturer, Professor Kramer, is this goofy character who formats parts of his lectures as a game show.
3. Themis is competitively priced.
Some Big Law firms will issue a stipend (usually $10-15K pretax) for their incoming associates to spend on bar prep materials. For these students, price becomes important because they get to pocket the remainder.
If you still can’t decide on whether to purchase Barbri’s, Kaplan’s, or Themis’ course, then maybe Themis’ relative low pricing will help you make a decision.
As of 2021, Themis costs about $1295 for students paying with a law firm stipend. Barbri costs about $2000 and Kaplan costs about $1500 for students with stipends. These prices are sometimes not listed publicly on their website. You may need to speak with the company reps at your school (aka some of your classmates) or email the regional director for discounted pricing.
Even if you aren’t getting a stipend and your law firm is reimbursing or fronting the bill, you may need to think about tax consequences. The amount your law firm pays for the bar review course may be considered taxable income, meaning you may need to pay taxes on that fringe benefit.
However, I know some firms will treat it as an accounts payable rather than a fringe benefit either due to some error in reporting taxable income to the IRS or due to some other legal reason (idk I’m not a tax lawyer). Nevertheless, just go ahead and assume that you will likely pay some amount of taxes on this benefit.
Thus, seeing that Themis and Barbri have very similar course offerings and exam outcomes, it may be in your best interest to just go with the lowest price.
Cons of Themis Bar Review
Themis Bar Review is not perfect. I had a list of things that bothered me as I was progressing through the course. I will say that some of these things are small and nitpicky, but they were annoying enough for me to discuss them here.
1. A few lecturers (I think one or two) were less than stellar at organizing and presenting the material.
There were certain legal topics that were difficult to go through because the video lectures for those topics were, in my opinion, poorly organized and executed.
For instance, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure video lectures were painful for me to get through. I felt that we progressed through this topic in an unorganized manner. It seemed like we were incoherently jumping from topic to topic and then back to a previous topic at times.
In addition, while the lecturer clearly knew the material well, I felt as if she were just reading the lecture handout word for word without adding any other context or background information. Effectively, she was regurgitating facts about the law to me in bullet point format.
In addition, she doesn’t really emphasize the words you should fill into the blanks on your lecture handout, so you might have to rewind a few times to catch it. It’s more annoying when this is happening because the lecture is so dry.
I contrast this with the more charismatic lecturer for Evidence who would often put the material in context with the bigger picture and provide helpful tips for memorizing the material throughout his lectures. Also, I remember some other lecturers using diagrams and other visuals to help us learn the material more efficiently.
In sum, I found the Civil Procedure lecture videos to be mostly unhelpful in my studies. After watching all the videos, I ended up studying the more detailed course outline to learn the material myself.
Nevertheless, I don’t think this should be a dealbreaker because I’ve heard similar complaints about Barbri and Kaplan as well. But I still think you should be aware of this.
2. Some of the textbooks are missing organizational features.
This may be one of those nitpicky things. Usually, a textbook will provide a table of contents so you can easily find what you are looking for.
Themis’ textbook of course outlines is properly fitted with a table of contents. However, the textbooks containing the lecture handouts, multistate performance tests, and essay workshop handouts don’t have this feature.
Throughout your studies, you’ll be flipping back to your completed lecture handouts in your textbook to find answers or to review certain topics. I found it to be incredibly annoying to have to flip through 100 pages to find exactly what I was looking for.
Including a table of contents in those textbooks is such an easy thing to do. I don’t know why Themis didn’t just do it.
3. Themis recycles assigned MBE questions in the “extra practice” mode.
In addition to the MBE question set tasks, Themis has a mode where you can “build” practice MBE tests, meaning you can set the number of questions and the topics to be tested in the practice test.
Although Themis has a ton of MBE questions available, they will recycle the questions from the MBE question sets into the extra practice mode.
Halfway through my bar prep course, I felt that I wasn’t doing as well as I wanted with MBE questions from Civil Procedure. So, I built a practice test containing only Civil Procedure questions in the extra practice mode. The next day, I did an MBE question set and realized that some of the same exact Civil Procedure MBE questions I did the day before were in this question set.
In my experience, once you’ve done an MBE question, it’s not really helpful to do it again (especially if you got it right the first time). Nevertheless, since Themis offers a lot of MBE practice questions (around 3,000) that are directly assigned through tasks you need to complete anyways, this shouldn’t be a huge deal. If you want more practice, buy more MBE questions from other sources online.
4. Most of Themis’ practice MBE questions aren’t actually old MBE questions.
This isn’t a huge issue, but I think it’s something to be aware of. Although Themis includes old MBE questions, they write most of their practice questions themselves. I noticed when taking the bar exam that the actual MBE questions “felt” different from the Themis ones.
Nevertheless, this difference was only in the way the questions were written and structured. The most important thing, the content of the questions, were similar.
Despite having slightly different MBE questions from the actual bar exam, most people still pass after going through the Themis bar prep course. Thus, be aware that even though this difference might throw you off a little during the exam, just focus on the law you memorized and work your way through the questions as usual.
I want to note that Barbri also writes a lot of their own MBE practice questions too. If you really want to use real MBE questions for practice, you can buy other textbooks containing real questions or use AdaptiBar.
5. For international students: Some hypotheticals provided in the lecture handouts may be unclear to international students initially.
Themis provides hypotheticals in their lecture handouts to help explain certain legal concepts. However, sometimes these hypotheticals use company names or brands in their facts that may be unfamiliar to students who grew up in other countries.
For instance, there was a hypothetical in the Contracts lecture handouts that went something like this:
Hypothetical: You walk into an AutoZone store and the clerk tells you that their delivery van is for sale. You buy it but it breaks down the next day. Has AutoZone breached the implied warranty of merchantability?
Answer: No, because they are not a merchant of vans. Only merchants are on the hook for the implied warranty of merchantability.
If you aren’t familiar with the American brand, AutoZone, you won’t know that they don’t normally sell vans in their usual course of business (and thus, they are not a merchant of vans). They only sell parts for automobile maintenance. The hypothetical in the lecture handout doesn’t clarify this in their facts – it simply assumes you know what AutoZone does.
As someone who was born and raised in America, I was able to answer this question without issue, but I can definitely see how this could leave an international student scratching their head in confusion.
Overall, I would recommend Themis Bar Review to law students. They provide everything you need to know about passing the bar exam, and they hold your hand throughout the entire process. Themis is also competitively priced as compared to its competitors.
If you put in the work to complete the tasks Themis assigns everyday, you should pass the bar exam without any real issue.