Many executives dream of dominating their industries the way BAR/BRI does the business of helping law school graduates prepare for bar examinations. Every law student knows BAR/BRI. Hundreds of thousands of them have taken its courses to pass the bar, an essential step in most states before a law school graduate can practice law. Some of the best law professors in the country teach segments of the company’s courses, which are offered live in select locations and on videotape at others.
But now BAR/BRI could use a few lawyers itself. Some of the people who paid the fees, took the courses and passed the bar have turned on the company, which is owned by the Thomson Corporation of Stamford, Conn. Represented by an aggressive Los Angeles lawyer named Eliot G. Disner, they have filed a lawsuit charging that the company that helped them to become lawyers has operated an illegal monopoly and has overcharged hundreds of thousands of students by an average of $1,000 each – or, collectively, by hundreds of millions of dollars.
In complaints filed in the spring and summer, different groups of students charged that BAR/BRI has paid competitors to shut down and negotiated illegal agreements with potential competitors to divide the market. In particular, they cite a 2003 agreement with Louisiana State University, which until 2004 operated its own bar review course; under the deal, BAR/BRI promised to pay tens of thousands of dollars each year to the school, and the school promised not to run a competing bar review course.