The Talent

April 9, 2009 5:17 PM

LA Lawyer Who Objected to BAR/BRI Settlement Dies at 62

Posted by Brian Baxter


A former McGuireWoods partner who objected to a $49 million settlement with the parent company of BAR/BRI, the nation's largest provider of bar review courses, died on Saturday in Los Angeles at 62.

Eliot Disner filed the antitrust class action against West Publishing and New York-based test preparation provider Kaplan when he was a partner with 40-lawyer Los Angeles firm Van Etten Suzumoto & Becket, which merged with McGuireWoods in April 2006.

The case, which accused West and Kaplan of conspiring to divvy up the bar review and LSAT test prep market, settled in February 2007 for $49 million.

About $36 million from the total settlement value was to be distributed among 300,000 law school graduates--about $125 per plaintiff--who took BAR/BRI courses between 1997 and 2006. The balance of the settlement was to cover attorneys' fees and litigation expenses.

But on May 17, 2007, Disner filed a 13-page brief on behalf of three of the seven lead plaintiffs objecting to the settlement. Disner argued that McGuireWoods should have asked for at least $400 million to settle the case, and should have pushed for the breakup of BAR/BRI.

McGuireWoods didn't agree. The firm fired Disner less than a week later.

"I was terminated because [McGuireWoods] said that my work on the BAR/BRI case had hurt the [firm's] reputation," Disner told The American Lawyer at the time.

Disner then set up shop two blocks away from his old Beverly Hills office at McGuireWoods, founding the Disner Law Corporation with his son Perrin Disner, longtime friend and colleague Joel Bennett, and IP lawyer Robert Ashen.

That began a battle by Disner to be named cocounsel to the class along with his former firm. Already in line to receive 30 percent of the attorneys fees, McGuireWoods objected to Disner's motion to serve as cocounsel. A federal judge agreed with the firm, temporarily holding up approval of the settlement.

Disner eventually split $12.25 million in fees with McGuireWoods. Subsequent suits filed by Disner against West were unsuccessful.

According to his obituary, Disner died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

His three-lawyer firm plans to continue on without him.

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Disner's family has as yet received none of the money from the settlement

Well, I never received my $125.00 settlement proceeds from this bogus(?) class action suit! I wonder if anyone else did....?

Neither have I. I would be surprised if West has paid a dime yet (to the family or anyone else). This settlement was a joke, and I applaud Disner for doing what he could to actually remedy the situation.

To the above commenters--of course you haven't received a share of the settlement; no member of the class has because there are (as of July 7, 2009) pending appeals. I, for one, have been tracking the status of my settlement on the website--haven't you?

Eliot was not only an exceptional lawyer, but also a fighter for what was right. As a friend of his, I will continue to miss him.

Eliot was an exceptional attorney, with a passion for antitrust. He volunteered his time generously, stood on conviction, and was not afraid of a fight. The world is far better off for his time here.

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