What Were the Damages in Erie?

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on November 10th, 2010 by bl1y

A few days ago I posted a video of an NYU civil procedure class performing a skit that somehow is supposed to explain the Erie doctrine.  You can see NYU’s own coverage of the event here.  Now it’s time to look at just how much damage was done.

A semester in law school, not counting exam periods, lasts about 14 weeks.  And, in each of those weeks, an NYU 1L will have 15 hours of class room instruction (see, we didn’t count exam periods because there are no classes then).  Actually, at NYU you’ll have 15.5 hours the first semester, and 14.5 the second semester, if you have civil procedure first semester (which these kids obviously did), but it’s a 5 hour class, and replaced with a 4 hour class second semester.  The weird .5 comes from Lawyering being 2.5 credits per semester, taken both first and second semesters.  I’m just going with the average of 15 hours to keep things tidy.

So, 14 weeks multiplied by 15 hours per week means 210 total hours of classroom instruction for the semester.  Yearly tuition at NYU is $44,820, or $22,410 per semester.  This is just tuition, not total expenses with books, and fees, and room and board.  So, $22,410 for 210 hours of classroom instruction comes out to $106.71 per hour.

The Erie skit, not counting the vapid gifts to the professor (his tenured position and cushy salary doing part time work is his gift, you imbeciles!), lasts about 10 minutes, or 1/6th of an hour.  That’s $17.79 in tuition dollars going to that skit.

Per student.

Now, unless something big has changed since I attended, the 1Ls are divided in to 4 sections, and each section has two different civil procedure groups.  When I was there I believe we had about 450 1Ls, and I believe that number has gone up, but let’s just call it a conservative 50 students per civ pro class.  50 students x $17.79 per student is $889.50.

$889.50 for that sketch.  To me, that doesn’t actually sound like a whole lot of money when you compare it to the total cost of law school.  But, I think going back to the per-student figure is more enlightening.

$17.79 per student in the audience, $17.79 per student performing (yes, they pay to perform in class, not the other way around), and $17.79 per student who’d really rather just get a decent education and be prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation.  $17.79 per student to watch a performance which, given most classes’s attendance policies, students were more or less required to see.

Would you have paid $17.79 to watch that performance?

Would you have financed that $17.79 with non-dischargeable debt which you will be paying off for the next 10, 15, or 20 years?  When you include the interest, that $17.79 could easily blow up to $30 or $40 dollars per student.

But even in today’s dollars, let’s look at how much $17.79 is.  Just a block from where this performance took place (assuming it was in Vanderbilt Hall, which it looks like it is) is the Comedy Cellar.  Ticket prices Monday-Wednesday are $10, Thursday and Sunday are $12, and Friday and Saturday are $18.  The shows usually last about 2 hours, and involve 6-8 comedians performing short acts.

If you went to tonight (it’s Wednesday, so only $10) your opening act would be Modi:

Then, you would listen to 5 other comics who have been on Last Comic Standing, Z Rock, Howard Stern, and written for Dave Chappelle.  After that, you’d get your headliner, Dave Attell:

And then, to close, you’d have schmuck who only got so far as having a half hour special on Comedy Central.

Of course, Comedy Cellar, like most comedy clubs, has a 2 drink minimum.  Domestic beer is $5, imports are $6.  I’ll assume they have something like Sam Adams or another good American beer, so we’re going domestic.  $20 plus tip.  Would you rather pay $22 (tipping only on the drinks, not the ticket, duh) to see these comics, or $17.79 to have your legal education interrupted with an amateur Erie doctrine skit?

Would you rather get:

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