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Douglas Sylvester

Day 78/90 – Corrupting ASU 1Ls

Day 78 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I got to meet some of the new law students at ASU at their orientation reception.

I can't wait until the new law school building is finished (Photo courtesy of ASU Law School)

I can’t wait until the new law school building is finished (Photo courtesy of ASU Law School)

ASU Law School has a reception during 1L orientation where they invite their alums to meet the new students. It’s in the evening so the 1Ls are exhausted from a long day of information overload and culture shock. It’s fun to share tips for surviving law school and give them a glimpse of what life after law school is like.

My goal for attending these types of event is to show law students that there’s more than one way to be a lawyer. I purposely attended in jeans and a tank top to show them that not all lawyers wear a suit every day. Along with talking about my legal career as an Of Counsel attorney, blogger, speaker, and author, I tried to share some lessons that got my though law school:

  • If you’re smart enough to get into law school, you’re smart enough to get through it.
  • Sometimes you’ll lose your mind a bit due to stress and fatigue, but it’s temporary. You will bounce back and be happy again.
  • The difference between the top and the bottom of the class is small. Unless your dream job requires you to be at the top of your class, you don’t have to check your grades. I didn’t.
  • Become friends with the IT guys. They will save your ass when your computer breaks.
  • The staff and faculty at ASU Law are as supportive as they claim to be. If you need or want something, ask.
  • Treat law school like a trade school. Learn your craft and network your face off you so will be well connected to the community by the time you graduate. If you have an opportunity that requires skipping a class, definitely skip class.

I told a group of 1Ls the story about the day I realized Dean Sylvester was super cool when he encouraged me to send a demand letter to the then-ASU Law Dean when he was late to class.

I also met a 1L who I exchanged emails with a few years ago. She’d asked me if law school was worth it and I told her to ask herself whether a law degree was necessary to achieve her goals. If so, go to law school. And now she’s at ASU. That was really cool.

I gave my business card to just about every law student I met and I told them to call or email if they need anything. We’ll now many of them take me up on it.

For anyone who discovers this post after meeting me tonight, here a bonus for you: Seven Layers of Academic Hell.

In case you missed it: Day 77 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I treated myself to a Suzie Housewife Day!

ASU Foundation Hitting Up Law School Grads Too Soon

About a week ago, I got a very disturbing phone call – from the ASU Foundation. They called me to ask for a donation.

I graduated less than six months ago. The average debt for ASU law grads is $89,000.  Some of my classmates don’t have to pay back their loans yet, and the school is asking us for donations. I was nearly speechless.

I suspect the ASU Foundation is trying to get donations based on the idea of reciprocity. In their eyes, they probably think that ASU gave me a great education so I should want to thank them by giving a donation. In my eyes, I bought a great education from ASU, and now they’re asking for more.

(cc) John M. Quick from Flickr

Part of philanthropy is building relationships with the people who want your money. I completely support ASU keeping in touch with its new alumni and cultivating relationships so it will be easier to ask for money in the future. Six months is too soon to ask.

If the ASU Foundation had taken the time to get to know me, it would have seen that I publicly said that I was so unhappy with the law school’s previous administration that I would not be a donor until changes occurred in the program.  The foundation would have known how frustrated I was that my tuition went up 32% during the three years I was a student and that it would have been in their best interests not to ask me for money at this time.

I do think it’s possible for ASU to redeem itself in the long run. I am very pleased with the decision to appoint Douglas Sylvester as the interim dean and some of the changes he’s made since taking over the school. It’s a good start, but I won’t be convinced to open my wallet until I see the new dean in action.

Unfortunately for the law school, the ASU Foundation is compounding an existing problem in the law school. This week, Dean Sylvester said that state funding cuts couples with a lack of alumni donations has required the law school to raise tuition for next year’s students. Many of the law school’s recent graduates were pissed off when they graduated. Asking us for money too soon is keeping us pissed off, and therefore the school has to work harder to get back into our good graces.

One of my classmates had a brilliant response to the call from the ASU Foundation. She said she’d donate as much money to ASU as ASU donated to her. (Bummer for ASU – they gave her nothing.)