TLC: Who Feeds The Cash Cow?


As of June 2, 2009, the Trial Lawyers College had, for the year 2009, received about $110,000 from the college's top 50 donors. The gifts ranged from $100 to $50,000. Undoubtedly, there were more gifts given by folks who have yet to make the top 50. The 50th person on the list had lifetime gifts totalling $20,744.94, a quirky sum.

The college once had the goal of raising $10 million as a means of becoming self-sufficient. As of March 31, 2009, the college had total net assets of $2,201,696. As we have noted elsewhere, this does not include the value of the real property, which is owned by the Spence Foundation and rented by the college subject to a revocable lease.

Fund-raising is an important part of what goes on at TLC events. I watched some of the auction of Spence memorabilia this past month at the 80/15 event. (Indeed, I did more than watch. I bid a bundle on Spence's old roll top desk, and still wish I hung in there to complete the purchase.) A couple of board members sat watching the bidding with the grim fascination of the warden in Cool Hand Luke. I kept waiting to hear a throaty drawl croak "The problem here is a failure to contribute." Cough up the love, people!

I am told that the summer class of 2009, for example, pledged $400,000 in donations. Collecting all that will be difficult. It is easy to make promises amid the see-sawing emotions wrought by saying good bye to newfound friends. The hat also gets passed at regional events.

There are plenty of folks who have given $50,000 or more since the college was founded. But there is concern that the regulars are tapped out, I am told. That may be true. Only four of the top 10 contributors have anted up thus far this year.

Cynics contend that big contributors can buy their way onto the board. There is no evidence of that. Only two of the top ten donors are on the board. But, surprisingly, of the thirteen lawyers on the current board of directors, only five made the top 50 list. Gerry Spence, who recently relinquished his board seat to become CEO of the tribe, ranks number 11 on the list of 50, and third if included among the list of board members. (The Spence Law Firm, however, contributed a sum sufficient to place it in the fifth place on the top 50. It appears last to have contributed in October 2002.)

I was a little surprised to see board members under-represented on the list of top contributors. Leadership is often best practiced by example, after all. Jude Basile, the new president, shows a meager sum, which, if annualized, comes to something less than $2,000 for his 15 years involvement with the college. According to his board biography, Basile obtains 7 and 8 figure verdicts and settlements for his clients. Did someone say give until it hurts?

Board members making the top 5o are: William Trine, R. Rex Parris, John Zelbst, Carl Bettinger and Jude Basile. (And, Gerry Spence, the new CEO.)

Another fun fact to know and tell: Each donor has an identification number. I am not sure how the numbers are assigned. They range from number 2, for a name I recognize to be that of an old timer, to 2705 for this year's $50,000 donor, a person who is neither former student nor staff.

I suspect each former student has a number. I don't know mine, but I'd like to petition for 666. I mean, after all: I am so pleased to meet you; guess you know my name.

Comments: (13)

  • Not Bowing at another man's altar, and your
    sense...
    Not Bowing at another man's altar, and your
    sense of self respect are the stated reasons
    you are on this crusade, Norm.
    Do you see some religious thing it all,
    Spence professes his distaste for
    Catholic ritual.
    As to your self respect, did you feel
    cheapened in some way, by some TLC
    experience ?
    It is most puzzling, Norm,
    all your latest frenzy on these matters.
    Hope you can clear up, as the more you
    write on the more murky things become, and
    to note your bird analogy, whose nest
    is becoming fouled by the week.
    Hope it is not bird flue, you have, Norm.
    Posted on October 15, 2009 at 5:52 am by Anonymous
  • Most colleges seek out donors, and are
    very active...
    Most colleges seek out donors, and are
    very active in fund raising.
    So, why haven't you highlighted all the colleges
    you have a degree from.
    So, TLC puts on programs, those cost
    money to put on
    At least, TLC did not lose $ 14 billion
    from endowments like your neighbors
    Yale and Harvard, as happened in
    last years economic meltdown.
    Why are you so obsessed with TLC, Norm,
    you seem to be irked about something,
    but not very transparent about your beefs.
    Posted on October 14, 2009 at 1:03 pm by Anonymous
  • Yes, she did a fine job. At times a great job. I...
    Yes, she did a fine job. At times a great job. I was just trying to find out if she was really paid that much money. Sounds like a nice job though. Did she have an office staff and an office or was it out of her home? Was there an expense account? Can you shed light on that? And who approved what she was paid? Was it the board? And what is Jude going to get paid? Someone told he he was donating his time. Can anyone confirm?
    Posted on September 8, 2009 at 12:21 pm by John
  • I have no idea what Joane was paid but it wasn't a...
    I have no idea what Joane was paid but it wasn't a 10 week program. She not only did the summer programs at the ranch but the ones around the country. And those went on through out the year. She did largely drop her private practice as well. I don't begrudge her what she was paid...and I'm sure there was a tremendous amount of psychic wear and tear involved. I am a big fan of Joane's--not because of any personal relationship, but because she's a very good lawyer and I think did a fine job.
    Posted on September 8, 2009 at 11:15 am by Anonymous
  • Is it true that Joane was being paid over $200k a ...
    Is it true that Joane was being paid over $200k a year to run what was basically a ten week program. That she made over a million dollars running the school, but couldn't make it into the top fifty donors? Norm can you shed some light on this?
    Posted on September 8, 2009 at 10:04 am by John
  • In an earlier blog you said that TLC pays the tota...
    In an earlier blog you said that TLC pays the total costs of the ranch to the Spence Foundation. An interesting item would be the total of those costs to TLC which makes use of the ranch about 7 to 10 weeks of the year. And how were those costs paid before TLC?
    Posted on September 7, 2009 at 3:30 pm by Anonymous
  • Among my problems is a congenital dislike of hypoc...
    Among my problems is a congenital dislike of hypocrisy. That and a healthy dose of self-respect. Bow all you want at another man's altar; just don't pretend to have a spine.
    Posted on September 7, 2009 at 1:12 pm by Norm Pattis
  • Such bad blood. It's not even clear in all of thi...
    Such bad blood. It's not even clear in all of this what you think the bad thing is that you're exploring in such painstaking detail. What's the big freaking deal and how is it worth raising such a stink about such a positive contributor to our world - and trying to make him feel badly. What is your problem?
    Posted on September 7, 2009 at 1:00 pm by Anonymous
  • Based on one of your other posts, it is obvious th...
    Based on one of your other posts, it is obvious this organization will stoop to any depths to make a buck. I mean come on, selling thong underwear? I'd like to read the explanation of that decision.
    Posted on September 7, 2009 at 11:15 am by Anonymous
  • Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. LOL. Chances of that are less than...
    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. LOL. Chances of that are less than slim to none!
    Posted on September 7, 2009 at 8:20 am by Anonymous
  • Let's let the college do the right thing and do it...
    Let's let the college do the right thing and do it. I am merely raising questions here. The next issue of the Warrior would be a good place to demonstrate a real commitment to transparency.
    Posted on September 7, 2009 at 7:49 am by Norm Pattis
  • How about giving us the names of the top 50? Or at...
    How about giving us the names of the top 50? Or at least the top 25 and the amounts they have contributed?
    Posted on September 7, 2009 at 7:00 am by Anonymous
  • I can think of one example of someone unsuccessful...
    I can think of one example of someone unsuccessfully trying to buy his way onto staff--a guy from the first year made a significant contribution in hopes of being annointed and the uproar was so great that he was "dis-invited." Now this is someone who carried Spence idolatry and mimicry to a fine art. So neither the fawning nor the affectation of fringed jackets and glasses on chains and booming "isn't that true's" nor the payment of money sufficed for a position.
    When I hear that sucking up to Spence or paying money are the keys to TLC advancement, I think of this example. I don't know how Spence picks his inner circle, but it seems to be something else.
    Posted on September 7, 2009 at 6:47 am by Anonymous

Add a Comment

Display with comment:
Won't show with comment:
Captcha:
What is the year?
*Comment must be approved and then will show on page.
© Norm Pattis is represented by Elite Lawyer Management, managing agents for Exceptional American Lawyers
Media & Speaker booking [hidden email]