Thursday, September 25, 2008

How to Save Law Schools Money

I am not teaching this semester, so come into the office intermittently. When I collected my mail today, it included forty-three pieces of unsolicited mail from law schools, ranging from brief glossy brochures announcing a new hire, lecture, or institute to full scale glossy magazines describing the wonders of the school.

None of these schools is trying to hire me, so why do they bombard me with literature advertising themselves? The answer, almost certainly, is that every year U.S. News and World Report publishes its ratings of law schools. One way they decide how to rate schools is by asking randomly chosen law professors each fall what they think of the various schools. One way of trying to improve your rating, something all law school deans would like to do, is to bombard law professors with literature in the hope that some of it will catch their eye, resulting in a favorable mention for your school.

I do not know the actual cost to the senders of those forty-three pieces of mail, but I would be surprised if the total was much under a hundred dollars. The quantity of mail was, I think, above average, but I would still be surprised if the annual total cost of sending me such mailings, all of which go into the recycle bin, was under a thousand dollars, and not surprised if it were several thousand. Multiplied by all of the law professors targeted by such mailings, the total cost must be well into the millions, perhaps tens of millions.

I have a simple solution, designed to save the law schools money and me time. Let the ABA or the AALS set up a "no write" list for law professors. By putting my name on the list, I put law schools on notice that I do not wish to receive any mailing from them not specifically written for me, including any mailing of which more than a hundred copies go out. I further put them on notice that if any school sends me such mailings, I will remember the fact when and if U.S. News and World Report calls me.


Unknown said...

I've wondered about the cost of unsolicited mail in general. With everyone so concerned with environmental issues now, it seems that doing away junk mail would save a huge amount of paper and fuel for transportation.

Of course printers and the postal service probably wouldn't welcome the loss of income, but you can't please everyone.

I have a very small mailbox in the community I live in. Legitimate mail is often crumpled up and damaged being forced into a space too small to accommodate all the marketing pitches I do not want and do not look at beyond sorting it for the trash.

A no mail list would be wonderful.

Jon Kalb said...

This situation is a little different than typical unsolicited mail. Most direct mail marketers do not appreciate do-not-mail lists because they represent lost potential sales.

But schools are not looking for sales, they are attempting to buy favorable relative opinions with junk mail. They would love to not spend money on junk mail, but are afraid of being at a disadvantage to other schools that do send mail.

A do-not-mail list allows schools to save money without worrying that they are leaving the field to other schools that are willing to spend the money.

Your proposal is very much in the schools' best interest and would likely be adopted if you could get it seriously considered by the ABA or the AALS.