Contact: Nadene Bristow (310) 258-9711

May 02, 2005 02:15 AM US Eastern Timezone

Lawyers, Law Students Were Overcharged $300 Million 
For Bar Review Courses, Federal Lawsuit Charges

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--May 2, 2005--More than 300,000 lawyers and law students were each charged an estimated $1,000 extra for bar review courses, according to a complaint filed against BAR/BRI bar review and The West Publishing Corporation and Kaplan, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California Case No. CV 053222R (NCx) in Los Angeles today.

West Publishing Corp., dba BAR/BRI, and Kaplan are joined as defendants in a class action lawsuit accusing the two companies of illegally dividing the highly lucrative LSAT and bar exam test preparation businesses. According to the complaint, executives of BAR/BRI and Kaplan secretly agreed to a per se illegal market division.

BAR/BRI agreed to close its Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT) preparation course from the market in which Kaplan was the dominant competitor. Kaplan, in turn, agreed not to enter the full-service bar review business, in which BAR/BRI was the dominant competitor. The two companies then entered into an agreement to work together "strategically" to enhance Kaplan's share of the LSAT market and to increase BAR/BRI's control of the bar review market.

The complaint further alleges that at the time this agreement was entered into, Kaplan had entered into a letter of intent to acquire bar review materials and begin bar review courses across the country in competition with BAR/BRI. After Kaplan worked out its market division arrangement with BAR/BRI, it unilaterally terminated that agreement and abandoned all plans to compete against BAR/BRI. As a result, competition has been dramatically reduced, and law students and lawyers have overpaid substantially for their bar review courses ever since.

The "name plaintiffs" Ryan Rodriguez and Reena B. Frailich are suing on behalf of about 300,000 law students and attorneys to recover damages of some $300 million, plus costs. Under federal antitrust law, any recovered damages are automatically trebled.

Kaplan claims that it is the nation's largest test preparation company. It prepares students for virtually every standardized exam. However, it does not prepare candidates for the bar exam. BAR/BRI claims that it prepares more than 95 percent of all students sitting for the bar exam in any year.

Representing the plaintiffs is the law firm of Van Etten Suzumoto & Becket LLP, of Santa Monica, Calif. The lead attorney is antitrust trial lawyer Eliot G. Disner.

The bar examination is a two- or three-day exam given by each U.S. state and the District of Columbia as a requirement for admission to the bar and the
legal right to practice law.  One day of the testing period consists of a national multiple-choice exam, testing general principles of law.  The other day or days are designed to test local or generic law, typically in essay format.  Virtually all law school graduates take a bar review course to learn local law and exam techniques that are generally not taught in law school.  The LSAT is a national exam taken by college students and college graduates for admission to law school.  As with the various bar exams, students taking this test also frequently prepare by taking a course, such as the one offered by Kaplan.