Park v. Thomson Corp.

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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