I learned more practical law in six weeks of studying for the bar exam than I did in all of law school. The reason was that preparation for the bar exam is done using well-organized, concise commercial outlines produced by competing private companies like BarBri and BarPassers. Their materials won't be bought by students unless they organize the material in a compact and easy-to-understand format, in a manner that enables students to pass the bar exam. By contrast, in law school, professors assign their own boring, long-winded, disorganized textbooks to students. (To make himself look smart, one Harvard professor would assign one text to his students, while teaching from yet another, to avoid giving away what he was asking about in class).
On graduation from law school, I knew next to nothing about the law, having frittered away much of my legal studies watching “Married With Children,” arguing with classmates about politics, or drinking peach schnapps in the basement of the Lincoln’s Inn Society.
All that changed when I had to prepare for the bar exam. Because I suddenly faced the sword of Damocles in the form of exclusion from the bar, I studied hard and learned a lot of basic principles of law (especially real estate, family, and contract law) that I never had mastered in law school. Thanks, Barbri and the New York Bar Exam, for teaching me what Harvard Law School failed to do.
I didn't drink peach schnapps but this is otherwise in keeping with my own experience. I went into law school with a passion for the law and for justice. 3 years of almost uniformly terrible professors and I wanted nothing to do with the law. It's not like I expected law school to be a load of fun but I thought it might at least be intellectually engaging. It was not (again with one or two exceptions) and I graduated with no interest in a legal career. Fast forward 4 years and I find myself with a fantastic opportunity, great mentor and practical application of the law and that was enough to motivate me to finally take the bar exam and see the practice of law as a career option.
Studying for the bar was a bear but on some sick level I really enjoyed it. Studying for the exam allowed me to engage with the law in a real way that law school never did. Now, I just hope that I actually passed.
p.s. Andrew, you could write study guides ;)