Starting a Bar Exam Tutoring Company

New York Bar Exam Prep Company

Starting a bar exam tutoring company is a funny undertaking. If you do your job well, you never see your customers again. We spent some time with Dr. Mary Campbell Gallagher, the founder of the leading New York bar exam preparation company to get her perspective on running a bar exam test prep company.

If you are preparing for the bar exam in New York, or anywhere else for that matter, BarWrite is a company you ought to know.

Recognizing that BarWrite is a leading New York bar exam prep company, we decided to interview the founder, Dr. Mary Campbell Gallagher, to hear a little more about her entrepreneurial experience.

Dr. Gallagher, tell us about BarWrite®. What services do you offer?

BarWrite offers speaking, writing, and logic training for lawyers. Our core business is test-preparation for the bar examination, especially for foreign-trained attorneys. We specialize in the New York bar exam, but also assist our clients with bar examinations in other states.

The core of BarWrite's training systems is syllogistic logic and classical rhetoric. My Under-Here-Therefore™ legal writing system is a template and procedures, based on logic, that anyone can use to produce better legal writing.

I originally presented it in my book Scoring High on Bar Exam Essays: In-depth Strategies and Essay-Writing Practice that Bar Review Courses Don't Offer! published by the ARCO division of Simon & Schuster in 1991. The BarWrite Press brought out the Third Edition of Scoring High in 2006, and it also publishes the CD companion. Every law student and lawyer can use it.

I also speak to law firms, associations, and law schools and I am available to serve as a consultant.

When did you start your test preparation company? What made you decide to get into the bar exam preparation business?

I started the company in late 1988. Friends knew people who needed help with the essay part of the bar exam. Even if you are very bright, passing the bar exam is not easy. I knew that I could help them become better legal writers, and I did.

Who are your competitors in bar exam tutoring and bar exam preparation? How do you compete against them?

One giant company, BarBri, dominates the bar-exam preparation business, with 80 to 90 percent of the market. A number of large corporations offer training in writing or speaking for practicing lawyers, as Continuing Legal Education (CLE).

New companies enter the field every day. I never feel we are competing, however, because BarWrite's approach is different.

What other products do you have in the works?

In my forthcoming book "How to Study for the Bar Examination," I will teach study-schedules and study systems that help bar candidates prepare to score high on the bar examination. My manual "Perform Your Best Organizing Law Office Research and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT)," is also in preparation. I will teach bar candidates how to organize research in the law office and how to score high on a part of many states' bar exams, the MPT, that candidates often have trouble completing in the time allowed.

It sounds like an offering that people really need. I'm sure many law school students are wondering "How do I pass the bar exam?" and it sounds like you've got the answers. So, has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?

Enormously better.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

We used to send prospective students away if they did not ask for help in exactly the format we were offering. Now, we try to offer our bar exam study resources in the format the students want. We offer bar exam courses, bar exam study prep books, and bar exam preparation CDs. Soon, we will offer a DVD-text-CD package for home study for the New York bar exam essays. We offer coaching on the telephone to people outside New York City. Indeed, some of them are outside the United States. I wish we had been flexible earlier.

What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?

BarWrite was among the first in the bar-preparation business to use the internet and email marketing. That has helped us enormously. Many of the students in our large-group classes in New York City heard about us online. Many students who buy Scoring High on Bar Exam Essays and our other products come to us online. Students hear about us from other students online. They write to us and ask advice by email. We send out email newsletters, and students actually write to us to say Thank you for those newsletters.

What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a test preparation company?

First, make sure you really know how to make a difference to students' test scores. If you are good at the work, your students will be happy, and you will be happy.

Second, understand that no matter how good you may be at preparing students for their tests, test-preparation is by its nature a marketing-driven business, and you must be prepared to market all the time. You will always have to find new students, because when students pass that test, they won't need to come back to you. You should consider expanding into related businesses, which is what we are doing. We are offering lawyers help with speaking and writing, in addition to offering help with the bar exam.

That sounds like very good advice for new entrepreneurs. Thanks so much for joining us for one of our entrepreneurial interviews, Dr. Gallagher. And, to our readers, if you've found this interview not because you are an aspiring entrepreneur but because you aspire to be a lawyer one day, you would do well to put your trust in BarWrite for help passing the bar exam!

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Have you attended a bar exam preparation course? What do you think it takes to succeed in the test preparation industry? We welcome all comments, questions, tips and suggestions.

  • Steve Forte posted on 12/22/2010
    Steve Forte
    This was a very interesting article. I myself am an entrepreneur and have partnered with a law school peer to start a new bar exam preparation course, Law Preps( My partner started the business under a different name in Chicago and saw a great deal of success and found helping others, particularly those how failed in the past, to be extremely rewarding. Based on his success he teamed up and expanded the business to New York. The logic, more exam takers, meaning more individuals who we can provide our service to to help them achieve there goals. Its a tough task starting up in such a competitive market. But I do agree with the comment that they are not all truly competitors. Each service has its strengths and a bar examinee should not be afraid to supplement one with another if that is what is necessary to pass the bar. It appears Bar Write specializes more so on the essay. My business tends to place an emphasis on our personalized approach and 24/7 support. Sometimes you can grasp the MBE and do fine with the essays, but you need that support system or someone who can mold a study schedule around you. I hope all aspiring attorneys achieve their goal of becoming admitted, through whatever means of test preparation they take.

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