If you took the bar exam, you probably took a course to prepare for it such as BAR/BRI, Kaplan, Pieper, or Ameribar. These courses provide sample test materials and live or digital legal education and practical advice for passing the test in each state. Over the years, BAR/BRI has been accused of entering into agreements to eliminate the competition to saturate and dominate the field. A few class action lawsuits were commenced, which are the only ones in history to contain a class of attorneys.
The latest BAR/BRI antitrust class action is not over yet. A California federal judge recently refused to sign off on a proposed settlement that would require West Publishing Corp., owner of BAR/BRI, to pay out $5.29 million in cash and Kaplan to supply coupons worth $150 each toward the future purchase of course materials to authorized claimants. If you took BAR/BRI, chances are you are now or will soon be an attorney and are not planning to go back to school ever again or anytime soon. If that is the case, coupons for Kaplan course materials are probably useless.
BAR/BRI has been through the rigmarole of antitrust class actions at least twice before, but the latest action is the first one where coupons have been integrated into the proposed settlement. In Ryan Rodriguez v. West Publishing Corp., the District Court approved a partial distribution of $30 million to authorized claimants, the balance of which will be distributed when appeals are resolved and the matter is final. The class members are those who purchased a full service course in the U.S. between August 1997 through July 31, 2006.
In Anthony Park v. Thomson Corp., BAR/BRI was required to, among other things, shell out $13 million. Class members include those who purchased a full service course in the U.S. between March 15, 2001 and January 4, 2008.
It remains to be seen whether class members will be adequately compensated and whether the settlement will effect meaningful change in the bar review industry. Hopefully scholarly coupons will not be a part of the final agreement.
By Kathleen Beatty