Bar Expenses

Non-lawyers are often surprised to learn of the lockstep salary schemes of large law firms and the near-perfect information we have about them. (Recall Kevin Drum’s befuddlement at the bi-modal distribution of law graduate salaries and the “weird cultural collusion” it suggested.) Even annual bonuses are frequently spelled out in what amounts to public memoranda and are typically some variation of the “market” dictated by our Cravath overlords. Of course, there are some “black box” firms and a few gilded outliers such as Wachtell Lipton or Boies Schiller, but generally speaking, the world of large firms practices a degree of relative transparency around compensation that is unsurpassed outside the public sector.

In order to distinguish among firms, we have to look to the margins. For example, law firms vary quite a bit when it comes to paying for the bar and living expenses of incoming associates. Some firms may reimburse for covered expenses after the fact; others may pay some expenses directly to the provider. Some may give a stipend to cover living expenses, whereas others may offer the ability to take out an advance on salary.

Greater transparency (or, at least, aggregated information) on these questions might make one firm’s offer more attractive than another’s, or perhaps even give an offeree some basis for negotiating a package upgrade (but of course tread very lightly there)….

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UPDATE: Based on reader feedback, we’ve added information for Pieper Bar Review and Marino Bar Review.

Congratulations 3Ls! The grind of law school exams is over, or soon will be. Now you get to study for the bar exam — which, for some reason, law school didn’t really prepare you for.

Most newly minted J.D.s will be heading straight from law school classes into bar exam prep classes. We assume you all have been pitched all year by bar prep companies touting their costs, features, and success rates. With everyone claiming to have the secret to passing the bar exam, how to choose?

Since the last time we visited this question, bar exam prep courses have proliferated, offering a range of prices, technological formats, and philosophies.

As we here at ATL are all about service journalism, we’ve distilled the information about the major bar prep providers into a handy guide. For those of you mulling over which course best fits your needs, the crucial analyzing variables are cost, format, guarantees, discounts, and pass rate. Nobody want to have to take the bar exam more than once, so this is a serious investment decision. After the jump, check out an “apples to apples” look at the major prep companies…

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Did you take a BAR/BRI bar exam review course sometime in the past five years? Or are you taking BAR/BRI now, having paid for it prior to March 21? If so, keep reading.

As we recently mentioned, the deadline for joining or objecting to the proposed class action settlement in Stetson v. West Publishing Corp. is fast approaching (May 30). The lawsuit, alleging antitrust violations, was filed against West Publishing, which owns (but is selling) BAR/BRI, and Kaplan, the test prep company owned by the Washington Post. The class is defined as “[a]ll persons and entities who paid for a BAR/BRI full-service bar-review course from August 1, 2006, through and including March 21, 2011.”

Are you a class member? Let’s review your options….

UPDATE (5:30 PM): Please note the updates added to the end of this post.

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As we reported last month, it looks like Leeds Equity Partners will be acquiring BAR/BRI, the well-known bar exam preparation business, from West Publishing / Thomson Reuters. If you’ve taken a bar exam prep course, odds are that you took BAR/BRI — although there are alternatives, such as BarMax and Themis (disclosure: ATL advertisers, whom we thank for their support).

If the deal goes through, Leeds will get its hands on what would seem to be a very good business. BAR/BRI courses aren’t cheap, at a few thousand a pop (often paid by law firms, which aren’t very price-sensitive). And since BAR/BRI has had its bar-prep infrastructure in place for a long time — curricula, instructors, etc. — its marginal costs for each new teaching cycle aren’t that high. In short, BAR/BRI seems like a money-making machine.

(Note: This analysis about the economics of BAR/BRI is somewhat speculative. Please correct us, by email or in the comments, if we’re wrong.)

But Leeds will also inherit complaints about BAR/BRI. Some are of the consumer variety — e.g., the website going down when people were trying to pick their course locations, the date by which books must be returned in order to get deposits back being set too early, unfair late fees, etc.

And some complaints are of the legal variety, in the form of antitrust class actions alleging collusion between (1) West Publishing, the owner of BAR/BRI, and (2) Kaplan Inc., the test prep company owned by the Washington Post Company that is known in the legal community for its LSAT courses. One of the lawsuits alleges “that BAR/BRI agreed not to compete in the LSAT business and that Kaplan agreed not to compete in the bar review business, thereby allocating to BAR/BRI the market for full-service bar review courses in the United States.” (Now, of course, Kaplan has its own full-service bar review course.)

To the legal complaints we now turn. You should follow along, since there might be some money in it for you….

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Victory!

A couple of days ago, we told you that NYU 3Ls without jobs lined up are receiving discounts on tickets to their law school formal. It’s a nice gesture, but some NYU Law School students wanted more action from the NYU administration regarding the soon-to-be-unemployed students.

Well, maybe the NYU kids should have gone to school down south.

We are years into this legal-industry downturn, but finally we have a top-10 law school taking a basic step to help students who were unable to secure employment. Since law school doesn’t prepare you for the bar exam, and since bar review prep courses are expensive, this law school will pay bar expenses for graduating 3Ls who don’t have jobs lined up.

Which law school has adopted this policy? And why isn’t every law school doing this?

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