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Math for Lawyers: CLE Is Cheaper Than Law School

Law School Here at LBW, we've chronicled the many blogs dedicated to convincing potential law students to steer clear.

One of those blogs, BL1Y, which is generally pretty damned funny, had a post yesterday -- the 44th in the series of posts expressly detailing reasons not to go to law school, though that theme runs through just about every post on the site -- letting the world know that law school is expensive. As Bitter Lawyer points out, "Wah!"

But BL1Y's post raises an interesting idea. He breaks down the hourly cost of law school, and compares it to the hourly cost of certain CLE classes. Despite the expected economies of scale, it seems CLE classes are a relative bargain:

CLEs, just like law school, require facilities (rented, instead of owned), websites, administrative staff, tech support, the whole works.  But, if you know anything about how economics works, you know that as you provide a service to a larger group, it becomes cheaper.  So, you would think law schools, which often times have well over 1000 JD students (and then more LLMs) would be able to offer legal education at a much cheaper rate.  And, with CLEs you get a cheaper rate when you buy a big whole day, or even two-day package.  Basically, a bulk discount.  So, you’d think a 3-year package should be super cheap.  Law school should be the Costco or Sam’s Club of legal education.

We all know that ain't so, however. None of this matters to BL1Y's target audience -- those who think that a law school education will magically carry them over the rainbow to the field of daisies that is a life of fame, fortune, and, of course prestige.

There are those, though, who will tell you that law school is not just a means to an (perhaps depressingly elusive) end. They're ready to spend three years learning for learning's sake, because they heart the law, and just want to know what they need to know to do good and save the world.

Maybe these people should skip law school altogether, and just attend CLEs. Think about the benefits:

  • Flexible scheduling; you can hold down another full-time job while getting your legal education.
  • No pesky first year required classes. Why waste time in Property when you could skip right to "Can't We All Just Get Along," taught by comedian Sean Carter? That sounds like a bargain at $40. Torts? Please! For just $35 (early bird price), you can learn all you need to know about the "Principles of Drafting Pet Trusts" and enjoy a three-course meal including crabmeat cheesecake.
  • Increased networking opportunities. Your classmates at law school are, for the most part, just the sort of shallow wannabes discussed above, hoping to get their golden tickets to Big Law punched. But at CLE classes, you'll be surrounded by actual attorneys who might even be persuaded to have a discussion with you about the subject of the seminar you're attending, inadvertently giving you the benefit of practical knowledge, decidedly not the forte of the average American law school.

Granted, there is the obvious downside of not being able to do anything with your wealth of knowledge without risking some state bar deciding you're engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and getting all up in your face.

But you didn't want to go to law school to earn a living anyway, right?

Posted by Eric Lipman on May 4, 2010 at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)


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