Bad Ideas, Law Schools, William and Mary School of Law

How Much Would You Pay To Go To ‘Law Camp’?

When Professor Paul Caron of TaxProf Blog sent me a link to a story on his blog last night, all I could do is hit “reply all” and say, “Are you sh**ting me,” only without the bleeps.

I think, my friends, I have seen the most desperate and naked money grab by a law school in the modern era. They’re only asking for a thousand dollars, but if you know somebody willing to pay it, you should just steal $1,000 from them and punch them until they figure out why…

The story, via TaxProf Blog, comes from Law Technology News:

William & Mary Law School’s Center for Legal and Court Technology is launching a new “blended” e-learning professional development certification course, targeting professionals whose jobs intersect with the United States’ judicial system. The program will include both online learning as well as a three-day on-campus component…

The inaugural program will begin on Friday, August 9, 2013. Students will spend three days on campus, with housing at the Fairfield Inn and Suites, in Williamsburg ($96/night plus taxes). The in-residence portion of the program provides a chance to interact with faculty and classmates, enhancing the interactive online discussions that follow…

“This program can help people decide whether law school is right for them. If they do go to law school, it should give them a major leg up in their first year,” said [Professor Frederic Lederer]… According to the website, attendees can opt to take only the residential segment ($1,049), or the residential segment and Part 1 of the online component ($2,049).

It’s law camp. That’s what this is. Law camp, followed up by law book club. You go to camp for three days, then come back and discuss some books you were supposed to read. And they charge you $2,000 for that.

Setting aside the online component — which is dumb, but at least a traditional form of law schools profiteering off of the stupid and poorly informed — paying a grand for the residential segment is honestly one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever heard of.

First of all, and I hate to do this, but let’s just approach this like competent intellectuals. You cannot figure out whether or not ANY intellectual experience is “right for you” based on three freaking days. Christ in a schoolhouse, only a child says “I don’t like/absolutely love math” after three days of counting. Only an idiot says “17th century literature is/isn’t my bag” after thumbing though Romeo and Juliet for three days. Physical experiences, sure, you can probably figure out if you “like” skydiving after three days. You can probably figure out if prison is right for you after three minutes. But the rigors of the mind are not things that can be so breezily “sampled” ON A LONG WEEKEND.

Cornell does this with pre-law students. It gives them a six-week summer program and charges them $5,000. I think it’s a horrible idea. But just to show you how outrageous the price is of the W&M program, Cornell is charging pre-laws $5K for six weeks, while William and Mary wants to charge adults $1,000 for three days.

And it’s not like this “in-residence” thing sounds like a particularly rigorous or immersive experience. They’re not dropping you into a maternity ward and saying “you’ve got this.” This is more like trying to decide if you want to become a Ph.D. level historian by taking a freaking library tour:

BRAIN: “Wait, so you went to a library for three days?”
PINKY: “YES! With a librarian!”
BRAIN: “And you read books?”
PINKY: “I leafed through some.”
BRAIN: “And…?”
PINKY: “There was also an online competent. Turns out that a lot of these “library books” are available online. But I didn’t want to pay extra for that.”
BRAIN: “And now you want to spend years of your life and lots of money doing that everyday?”
PINKY: “Why not??? Oops, I just went poopy in my pantsies.”

For this opportunity, William and Mary wants to charge you money. Unbelievable. I can imagine the stupid conversation between a rational individual and a person who signs up for the program, but I can’t imagine the meeting where the W&M people conceived of this idea, settled on a price point, and decided to take people’s money like this. I’m not that dark and hollowed-out on the inside.

If they really cared about making this right, if they really wanted to give mid-career professionals a “taste” of the law school experience, they’d make it FREE. Law schools are so concerned about grabbing some quick cash now that they can’t even see their long-term best interests. Rope them in with a free weekend, wine them and dine them, and make law school seem awesome. DON’T KILL THE COW, LEARN HOW TO MILK HER.

It’s not hard… what do you think law firms are doing ALL SUMMER? It’s not like they’re paying summer associates thousands of dollars to do no work and go to lunch for ten weeks because they’re stupid or overly kind.

Taste Law School Before You Buy! [Law Technology News]
William & Mary Offers 3-Day Taste of Law School (For $1,049) Before You Buy [Tax Prof Blog]

Earlier: Just Read ATL for Six Weeks Instead of Doing Cornell’s ‘Pre-Law Summer’; We Won’t Charge You Five Large

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