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BarBri class action settlement

Last week I got a check in the mail.  Unlike most of the class action checks I’ve received, this one was for more than two dollars. Considerably more.

The BarBri class action covers those who purchased a BarBri course between Aug. 1, 1997 and July 31, 2006. The case is pending before the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Plaintiffs allege simply that BarBri violated federal antitrust law by colluding with Kaplan (another company that provides test prep, familiar to many lawyers from the LSAT prep course) to prevent competition for bar exam review courses.

The net (alleged) effect is that, with less competition, would-be lawyers paid more for these services than they would have otherwise paid. Defendants in the case are West Publishing Corporation (owner of BarBri and many other legal services) and Kaplan.

Sometime back in 2007, I received a notice of this class action and the pending settlement. I vaguely remember looking into the allegations, but didn’t really have time to thoroughly examine the pleadings. So, I filled out my claim form, sent it in, and went back to work. I suppose the wheels of justice move slowly, because plaintiffs are just now receiving money (with partial awards being sent out in January). My understanding is that some class reps objected to the settlement way back when, which stalled the process.

Everyone has an opinion about class action lawsuits. Many people believe that they are merely money-making mechanisms for lawyers who reap millions in fees, while presenting the class members with a mere coupon at the conclusion of the case.  Sometimes, that can be true. Many people believe that class actions are the best way our existing judicial system has to hold corporations accountable when they act improperly toward their customers. For example, in situations where it does not make financial sense for those customers to file individual lawsuits. Sometimes, that can be true, too.

I always make sure to deposit every settlement check I receive. I once received one for something like 27 cents. It probably wasn’t worth the effort to deposit it in my account, but I did, believing that if everyone who received such a check did the same thing, the corporation involved would be held accountable to some degree (yes, I know these are settlements, and not judgments). I’d like to know the actual rate of return for those types of checks.

Regardless, the BarBri checks, benefiting lawyers on both ends of the equation, are worth a trip to the bank. It comes much later than my impoverished new lawyer days. Hopefully, most of the lawyers who get checks are financially secure. Consider donating your settlement to charity.