Back in November, we told you that Thomson Reuters was looking to unload BAR/BRI, its bar exam preparation business. The news was huge, given BAR/BRI’s status as a de facto finishing school for would-be lawyers.
Today, it appears that BAR/BRI has found a home. According to various reports, BAR/BRI will be acquired by Leeds Equity Partners. Leeds is a private equity firm that specializes in educational products and services.
Above the Law just spoke with Jeffrey T. Leeds, the co-founder and president of Leeds. He called BAR/BRI a “jewel” for the firm. And since the man is a graduate of Harvard Law School (Class of ’83), he knows just how important BAR/BRI is to our system of legal education… .
Thomson Reuters seems to be stepping away from the American legal market: at the same time they announced they were looking to sell BAR/BRI, they announced they were acquiring an outsourcing firm, Pangea3. But Leeds is focused on how crucial bar prep is to American-trained lawyers.
“BAR/BRI is an important part of legal education,” Jeffrey Leeds told us. “It should be viewed really as the last sprint.”
Leeds, who said he is friends with Stanford Law Dean Larry Kramer, understands just how important BAR/BRI is to the next generation of lawyers. “It’s high stakes for everybody,” he said.
For current law students who need to pass the bar now and don’t have the time to allow new corporate heads to understand the education business, there doesn’t seem to be much to worry about. Leeds talked about the breadth of educational companies his firm currently owns and the strong educational bona fides of his board of directors. The Leeds board currently sports two former Department of Education heads, Roderick Paige and Richard Riley, and the board is led by a former Secretary of State, General Colin L. Powell. I think that all those people can figure out a way to keep BAR/BRI students knee-deep in hearsay exceptions.
But of more import, Leeds seemed committed to the product and the future of the American-trained lawyer. He said that he wants to build on BAR/BRI’s current offerings and expand into other areas. That’s a vote of confidence at a time when traditional three-year law graduates face an uncertain job market.
The deal hasn’t been finalized yet, but Leeds reports that they have a purchase agreement, and he expects the final details to be worked out over the next six weeks. As we’ve previously noted, there will be no interruption of BAR/BRI services.
Hopefully BAR/BRI has a bright future, because that would speak well for the health of the American legal market for young attorneys.