ambivalent imbroglio home

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April 08, 2005

EJF Auction: Ain't Sharing Grand?

Imagine the biggest classroom at your lawschool packed with over 200 people screaming, laughing, clapping, cheering, eating pizza, and drinking copious amounts of free beer. Now imagine some of your favorite faculty dressed up as characters from “The Wizard of Oz,” standing at the front of the room, and encouraging their students to bid hundreds of dollars on everything from a tour of the Supreme Court to shooting lessons with a professor. It was wild. It was woolly. It was the GW EJF Public Interest Auction and it was a smashing success. Thanks to the generosity of GW faculty and students, the EJF collected something over $30k yesterday, all of which will be disbursed in grants to probably around 10 students working non-paying, public interest legal jobs this summer. That may not sound like much to those of you at schools that routinely bring in twice that much at your public interest auctions, but it continues the tradition at GW of each auction doing better than the previous one, so it means we must be on the right track. Speaking of auctions that routinely bring in seriously big dollars, the Samples Collection points to Michigan's auction site, which includes a list of auction items. From a quick look at that list, I see one obvious difference between it and ours at GW: Michigan gets donations from firms, GW doesn't. Being a DC school means local firms routinely refuse to help us out in any way b/c if they give to us they'll feel obligated to give to Georgetown and American and UDC and Howard (all DC law schools). Or maybe they just give to G-town and give the rest of us the finger. I love the cover of the SFF's auction program; the whole thing is very polished and professional. It looks like MI gets more travel stuff -- flightseeing in Alaska, ranch visit in Nebraska, use of home in Nova Scotia, etc. We haven't had anything like that at GW in a couple of years. A few years back a generous prof donated a weekend at her beach house for 6 or 8 students; they apparently each brough 6-8 friends so there were 40-50 people there and they were all trashed for the entire weekend, pissed off the neighbors, and left the place half-destroyed. So that prof has never donated that item again and I think word has gotten around that GW students can't be trusted w/things like that. On a similar note, other profs are starting to put limits on their alcohol-related donations to make sure they don't get embarrassed by having to be at dinner in a nice restaurant with a group of completely drunk law students. Am I detecting a theme here that GW students aren't the most responsible drinkers? Continuing with the quick Michigan auction comparison: At GW we also have only one SCOTUS tour (we had it for the first time last year and got it again this year thanks to the incredible generosity of Prof Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy), while MI has a couple. I guess that's b/c MI has more people clerking for SCOTUS? Poker w/a prof is a good idea; we've tried to encourage this, but no prof has taken the plunge yet. Lunches or other meetings w/judges are a good idea; we don't get these, either, for some reason. Again, maybe part of the difference is that MI grads are better placed in clerkships or more alums are judges? I'm guessing MI also has a well-developed alumni outreach program that helps the auction bring in some of these kinds of items. My understanding of GW's alumni outreach is that it basically didn't exist until the last couple of years and since then it has tried to help a bit but so far that hasn't really paid off. The school administration also zealously tries to control any contact anyone related to the school makes with alumni or law firms b/c the administration wants to tap these people for donations to the school itself and fears that if they give to other things (like the auction), they'll give less to the school's general expenses. That's the message I've been given, anyway. Note to alums and firms: If you give to “GW Law School” generally, a huge portion of your gift might end up in the coffers of the university as a whole so the law school and law students may benefit little from that portion of your gift. If you give to the EJF everything you give goes directly to help students working in the public interest. The choice seems clear to me. ;-) Back to the comparison: Skydiving w/a prof!? Awesome. Boat rides on the great lakes? Cool, but we can't really do that in DC. Overall, GW auctions off a lot more “dinner and drinks w/a prof” or “pro sports event w/a prof” kinds of things than MI does, it looks like. We also auction shooting lessons w/a prof for 6 students, which generally goes over well, and a rather unique item we've had the last couple of years is “personalized sniper training for 4 students.” Yeah, weird, huh? Ironic that a DC law school would be doing something like this, but it brings in big dollars and it's all in the spirit of fun, so there you go. This little comparison reminds me: It would be great to provide a place for law school public interest groups around the country to have a place to share tips and ideas to make their auctions better. Gee, do I see yet another new blog in the future? ;-) If anyone wants to help get something like this going, BlawgCoop is ready to host....

Posted April 8, 2005 09:50 AM | 2L

Bravo on raising 30 grand! It takes a lot of time to build a support base for EJF. This year we pulled in about $40 K at our live and silent auction, and a few thousand more at a "date auction" (read: male law students auctioning off the pleasure of their 'company' to liquored-up women at a local bar), then the Dean's office matched us dollar for dollar. Something to try for next year - if they're so serious about public interest, they should put their money where their mouths are. Also, Barbri discount coupons are a big ticket item - they draw about $1000 per coupon. Get the school to donate a parking space in the garage (if it exists), and go for small items from local business for a silent auction (which can rake in up to 10 grand).

Oh, and get a few guys from your Lamda law society to do a "Queer Eye" makeover for a hapless straight guy (or girl!). That drew big laughs and lots of money.

I'm all for a home to share ideas.

Posted by: Avoiding Billable Hours at April 8, 2005 12:35 PM

30 grand. That's fabulous. For something that will amaze you, go check out Harvard Law's EJF auction.

Posted by: Melissa at April 9, 2005 05:35 PM

Northeastern doesn't have EJF or a public interest auction. i assume this is because the demand would be way too high (we all have 4 oppurtunities to do PI internships before we graduate) and we're raising money all year round for the same cause.

but i like ABH's suggestions.

Posted by: monica at April 9, 2005 08:15 PM

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