Law Schools, Rudeness

Dear Law Schools: It’s A Little Too Early To Start Pestering The Class Of 2012 For Money

Should we pass around the collection jar for graduates, or their law schools?

Have you ever noticed that law schools claim it’s incredibly hard to find all of their recent graduates for the cause of transparency, but when it comes time for alumni giving, they always seem to know where everybody is?

The ink isn’t yet dry on their diplomas, but members of the class of 2012 are already being hit up for money by their law schools. No, we’re not talking about collections on the debts they still owe (those phone calls don’t start for a year). But law schools are already up with alumni giving campaigns aimed at recent graduates.

I used to make fundraising calls for my college and I know that conventional wisdom says that if you get people to give even a little bit early on you’re setting up a lucrative lifetime relationship with the graduate. But I think conventional wisdom needs to be thrown out of the window when you are dealing with recent graduates who don’t have jobs and do have a lot of debt.

Asking these kids for money right out of the gate isn’t a way to make them feel a connection with the school, it’s a way to further solidify how much they regret borrowing so much money to go to law school in the first place…

A tipster sent in a solicitation letter he received from Georgetown University Law Center. But these kind of inappropriate campaigns are carried out by nearly every law school in the country. Since the GULC letter is so typical, it’s a good case study in why law schools really shouldn’t be sending these things out to recent unemployed graduates. Here’s the mailer from Georgetown:

Let’s break down the problems with this message:

1) “Students choose Georgetown for its top-ranked areas of study, first-rate professors, and exciting opportunities that come with studying the law in Washington, D.C.”

Law schools really don’t seem to get it. People chose Georgetown BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT THEY’D GET A JOB! Not because of a blowhard professor or the opportunity to spend three years in the swamp basin that is Washington, D.C. When the alumni office can’t even get that having a job is what people were looking for, it makes unemployed and underemployed graduates really angry.

2) “Eighty-five percent of the law students who come to Georgetown qualify for some form of financial aid, without which studying at the Law Center might not be a possibility. For this reason, financial aid is our top fundraising priority right now.”

We’ve gotten to the point where “financial aid” means something to administrators that it does not mean to students and graduates. Being able to take out massive loans is not really “financial aid.” It’s more like financial delay. True financial aid — like when you give a kid a full ride to go to Georgetown instead of the more highly ranked UVA — was surely not available to 85% of the class.

In any event, telling people who are drowning in debt that they could have been drowning in more debt is not a good way to inspire them. Telling graduates that they should give money so that the next generation might not be financially ruined quite as much as the current generation is a great way to make them hate you forever.

3) “Through your support this year, Georgetown can continue to recruit top students and provide financial assistance to those who would not otherwise be able to attend.”

Again, we’re talking about the next generation when the current generation is still struggling mightily.

4) “Please make your gift today. A contribution of any size will help Georgetown Law continue its long-held tradition of excellence in education.”

I’ll let a tipster handle this one:

I hope they can maintain a tradition of excellence based on contributions from D.C. area contract attorneys.

When you look at the letter, it’s not any better or worse than any other solicitation letter. But the audience is all wrong. You cannot ask students who don’t have a job for money. You just can’t do it. And if your alumni office can’t distinguish between the students who have jobs and the ones who don’t, then your alumni office needs to raise its game.

Students are getting professionally killed out there, the least alumni officers can do is respect that. Instead of sending these kids solicitation letters, law schools should be sending flowers and condolences.

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