NY Judge Dismisses Bar Prep Lawsuit Against Top Law Schools

By Eleanor Tyler, Bloomberg BNA

A New York federal judge tossed claims that some of the nation’s prestigious law schools conspired with Barbri Inc. to keep out a potential competitor offering bar preparation courses for foreign law students.

LLM Bar Exam LLC (LBE) alleged that Harvard, Columbia, Georgetown, Duke, Berkeley, Emory, Fordham, and other law schools agreed to let only Barbri market bar prep courses to their students. Judge Katherine Polk Failla dismissed LBE’s claims on Sept. 25 for failure to allege that the defendants reached any agreement, undertook any anticompetitive conduct, or wielded market power.

LBE’s wide-ranging complaint said Barbri “colluded with law schools nationwide in order to monopolize the bar preparation industry,” violating both sections of the antitrust Sherman Act, anti-racketeering law, and LBE’s copyright. The court said LBE didn’t back up those allegations with facts. The complaint instead actually documented legitimate business reasons why each school would independently decide not to permit LBE on campus based on student complaints.

“The First Amended Complaint is 78 pages long and contains 63 exhibits,” Failla said, “But it pleads no facts that plausibly support LBE’s federal antitrust, RICO, or copyright claims.”

LBE attached to its complaint many emails between it and each of the defendant law schools. In them, the schools spell out students’ complaints about LBE’s refund practices and misrepresentations. While LBE sought to use those communications as evidence that the schools acted in concert, the court noted that decisions by each school to ban LBE from marketing or renting classrooms happened at different times and are documented individually in LBE’s own complaint.

As for LBE’s copyright claim, the court dismissed it without prejudice because LBE did not allege that it has a copyright or has applied for one. The court also dismissed without prejudice a raft of state law claims over which it declined to assert jurisdiction.

The case is: LLM Bar Exam, LLC v. Barbri, Inc., 2017 BL 337890, S.D.N.Y., No. 16 Civ. 3770 (KPF), 9/25/17

To contact the reporter on this story: Eleanor Tyler in Washington at etyler@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bna.com