Blogging, Law Schools, Money, Small Law Firms, Student Loans

Small Firm Lawyers Balk at ASU 3L’s Request for Sponsorship

While bonuses are burning up the comments here at Above the Law, there’s another discussion raging over at the ABA’s SoloSez Listserv — where solo and small firm lawyers from around the country share resources, practice tips and the occasional anecdote.

It seems that a 3L at Arizona State’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is seeking sponsors for the remainder of her law school and bar study days. (We noted the development in today’s Morning Docket.)

Claiming the debt load for the average ASU grad has increased by $40,000 since she applied, the 3L is “reaching out to the online community to help [her] pay for it.” Good choice, since everyone knows that bloggers are just rolling in cash.

Given its entrepreneurial nature, this seems right up the small firm alley. But the plan has been received quite poorly by a majority of practitioners.

More about the sponsorship, what she’s willing to do for it, and the identity of the student, after the break…

The student is Ruth Carter, who describes her program as follows:

Sponsor A Law Kid gives anyone who wants to the opporutnity [sic] to sponsor my legal education for a day. It will run from January 1, 2011 until July 27, 2011 – the last day of the Arizona Bar Exam. Each day can have one sponsor. I will also be tweeting every day about the life of a law student, so anyone who follows me can vicariously go to law school for a semester . . . . The cost to sponsor January 1st is only $1, and the price for each subsequent day goes up by $1 (Jan. 2nd = $2, Jan. 3rd = $3, Jul. 27th = $208).

Sounds innocent enough at first glance, but my very rusty high school math skills tell me that she’s hoping for $21,736 in total sponsorship cash, which is no small handout. In case you’re wondering, that’s within a few dollars of the in-state tuition/room/board for half a semester.

So, what does a sponsor get in return? In a word: awesomeness. From Carter:

I’ll publish a blog that tells the world how awesome you, your organization, and/or your products are. Also, it will give you a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that you’re part of something awesome.

It’s an entrepreneurial endeavor to be sure but, judging from the responses I’ve seen, she’s got some work to do on her persuasiveness before graduation.

Several well-known solos used the comment section to Carter’s post to share their thoughts: Lisa Solomon (condemnation), Carolyn Elefant (supportive condemnation) and Susan Cartier Liebel (subdued support).

A comon theme among the critiques (both those above and those on the list serve) is that she’s doing it out of laziness which, to her credit, she attempts to answer in the comments. Of the three above, only Liebel finds offers a positive take:

The fact some of you don’t like it is reason enough for you to stay away. I stay away from a lot of things I don’t like or support. But to so actively condemn her and with such conviction without knowing her is a little over the top, in my opinion. If it comes across as begging to you with no tangible return on your investment and it’s not a model you find palatable, don’t do it. I’m not. But I do think it’s creative and if done correctly can have many people following her success (built-in networking and supporters) and provide a ready made audience for her future endeavors.

I agree, but with some added envy that I failed to think of this first. Solos and small firm attorneys need to be able to create a presence out of nothing when they start and are sometimes forced to find creative ways to pay the bills. Carter is doing both. Of course not everyone will see the value in Carter’s “awesome” shout-outs, but I don’t see the problem in trying. Besides, she’s already sold 16 days so far.

I’ll close by offering up my favorite comment on the program: “In the words of KRS-One, ‘Capitalism is a pimp and hoe system. Either you’re the pimp, or you’re the hoe.’ She chose to be a pimp.” What do you think — entrepreneurial pimp, or lazy entitled law student?

Send me your thoughts and tips from the world of small firms and solo practices via email, and come follow me on Twitter.

3L Seeks Donors Willing to ‘Sponsor a Law Kid,’ Get a Warm Fuzzy Feeling [ABA Journal]

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