What is the Tuition? I’m Inviting You To Tell Me.

(This is a rather long post so if you can’t give your undivided attention now, please read this fully when you can.)

As more time passes I’m realizing Solo Practice University™ is going to become something much greater than even I envisioned.  While I anticipated a certain synergy with the whole being much greater than the sum of its parts, I never fully appreciated the incredible intellectual capital of all those participating.  Not just the faculty, but the students.  I also knew SPU was a going to fill a void but I never truly understood the depth and breadth of that void.

Since first announcing the construction of Solo Practice University™ back in March of 2008, many potential students have asked a very important question, “what will the tuition be?”  I  never deliberately dodged the question.  I just didn’t have an answer.  I needed to get a better handle on what was being created.  And then I needed to understand what made it valuable to those who would enroll.

Understand, the mission of Solo Practice University™ is very big, much bigger than revenue generation.  But in order to fulfill this mission we have to generate revenue so we can serve the students and serve them properly.

The word ‘university’ was originally defined as ‘a corporation of students.’  This philosophy will permeate everything done at SPU.   So, in keeping with the philosophy that Solo Practice University™ is  ‘a corporation of students’ and this is the students’ University, I decided to present the question of ‘how much and in what structure’ to a focus group of more than three hundred potential students.

Their responses were uplifting, important, considered, thoughtful, showed incredible enthusiasm and caring and a strong desire to help shape the community before we’ve ever even opened our doors!

Everyone was given the same minimum criteria:

1. Solo Practice University™ will not be free.  Why?

  • Mama always said, ‘anything worth having is worth paying for.’  Only faculty and scholarship recipients will have free access to the University.
  • When you are willing to invest in yourself, your education and your professional future, whether $10 or $10,000, you bring a different level of commitment to learning and you enrich not just yourself but the community.
  • Our course offerings, functionality, community and direction will not be dictated by advertisers. If we accept any paid advertising it will be with limited exception, only appear in the Co-Op and only after we have determined it is a service or product valuable to the solo.  Once accepted it is subject to peer-review.

2. There will be no ‘tiered’ memberships or a la carte instruction.  When you enroll as a student at SPU you have full, unlimited access to all educational components, all faculty, all technology, all communities…the whole enchilada. Why?  The ‘whole enchilada’ is designed to help students experience a three hundred and sixty degree education surrounding solo practice in the 21st century.

What I can tell you is up until this point  everyone without exception has expressed the same sentiment, “If Solo Practice University™ lives up to its mission it will prove priceless.”  And based upon this recurring theme it’s clear price cannot be based upon the value of the education because it will, in fact,  be ‘priceless.’

The objective criteria will be:

  • covering costs of operation;
  • generating revenue to meet our goal to provide scholarships to help new solos;
  • independence from external influences;
  • recognition of the current state of the economy and its impact on us all.

That’s why I’m now taking this important question to you: ‘how much and in what payment structure?”

You may want to review the following posts while you consider the question(s):

Our Mission

The Education

Our Faculty

Our Communities

Please fill up the comment section with your thoughts or you can e-mail me directly at susan@solopracticeuniversity.com as everything will be considered and the collective wisdom of all potential students tempered by our own goals will prevail. (you can also Tweet me on Twitter )

Thanks you in advance for taking the time to be part of building  Solo Practice University™.  I’m really looking forward to your contributions.  And when we have finalized our tuition program you will be the first to know.

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30 comments on “What is the Tuition? I’m Inviting You To Tell Me.

  • It is obvious that, like you say, the true value of SPU will be priceless. It is certainly worth at least as much as the education I received from law school, if not more.

    I think what you need to keep in mind is that many of us who want to attend SPU are either fresh out of law school, or attempting to run a solo practice on a shoestring. I am in the latter group, and would not be able to have opened a practice without a friend who is letting me pay rent for office space when able. Obviously, SPU is a business and not a charity. While the education is worth much more, I could comfortably pay somewhere between $500 and $1,000.

  • I’m pretty convinced SPU will have everything to help me. For me, the key is having it all in one place and manageable, helping me get started blogging properly (I’m pumped you have Grant Griffiths teaching us!) and most importantly, building a community of people similarly situated where we can grow in our practices together so not to feel so alone and make friends, I agree it is priceless.

    I also appreciate you not trying to take advantage of us ‘being lawyers’ or creating that cheezy ‘one price to get in’; another to actually learn anything. That’s always turned me off. I want to feel part of something, not feel like I’m being taken advantage of.

    I prefer a monthly tuition with an option for a discount on an annual or semi-annual basis, credit card renewal. Anywhere between $50 – $100 a month or $1,000 per year as a discount incentive makes it pretty much a gift when you look at the costs out there to learn anything today.

    Thanks for asking for our input. I already feel part of SPU.

  • It’s hard to suggest a price when it still isn’t clear what the product is. What is the format, what is the access level, is there instructor interaction, or is the content static? The name “university” implies certain qualities that we all understand from our own educational backgrounds, but online content often is different than what we remember from our school years. So, tell us what the format is, and we can give you a better idea of what we would pay for it. If you already have that kind of detailed information posted, the my apologies, and please make clear where that information can be found.

  • I’d say 100-150 a month while enrolled in some course of instruction, but I think it would be important to have continued access once the instruction was complete (for a small annual fee, perhaps).

  • Funny enough, this is a question I always had, wondering if the tuition was already announced yet somehow only I, of course, had missed it.

    I also think a monthly membership, and a flat annual fee would be desirable. Its so hard to put a price on something I think will be so valuable. I would want it to be high enough to sustain the enterprise, yet low enough for many aspiring solos to take advantage of it.

    Jason’s price range of $50-100/month sound good.

  • @David – In response to your second comment which we did not publish:

    There is a delay between the administrator receiving the comments and the time I receive them for approval as they are forwarded. I’m sorry the lag time gave you the impression your thoughts were being disregarded. That is not our policy. Only obvious spam comments, hostile or profane comments are deleted :-)

    Each instructor commits to a minimum of six one hour sessions of instruction (but most are doing much more) over a time period compatible with their work schedules. However, course instruction is anywhere from once a week to once a month with a minimum of one hour formal faculty interaction per month. Many will be doing more interacting plus actively participating in the practice area communities to be established.

    All course instruction, activities and community participation are on-going.

    I hope this gives you more clarity. And of course, we will be continuing to announce more as we progress towards our opening.

    We do value all input or we wouldn’t have asked for feedback. Just appreciate there is a lag time on moderation of comments on the actual site.

    @Jason, Tim, Joseph, Average Attorney: This is great feedback and thank you for taking the time to do so. Combined with the many e-mails plus our other focus group feedback I think what I have in mind is going to work very well for almost everyone :-)

  • Thank you for your response. My comment disappeared but now is back, not sure why that happened. I apologize for my off-the-cuff additional response, and appreciate your gracious and informative reply message.

  • This is a valuable service and I am looking forward to it’s full implementation. I too agree that $50 – $100 a month or $1,000 per year is a reasonable cost, especially for new solos who are struggling to make a go of their business.

  • As any solo knows, pricing your services is one of the hardest things to do, particularly when you have never done it before. With that said, I think a monthly subscription with no minimums or penalties for dropping out would be good. I would be likely to pay 50.00 per month if the interaction was not one on one in some form of message board. However, if I had some one-on-one access to professors during “office hours”, I might be willing to pay on the higher end of the scale. I would call it an adviser, like the ones you get in university. That tremendous value add would make SPU well worth 100.00 or more per month.

  • Well, as a law student, I could not afford a great deal each month and I doubt that many of classmates could either. If one of the goals of SPU is to encourage students to PLAN for solo practice then either a tiered approach to SPU pricing or a lower priced offering would be necessary. I seriously doubt if any law schools would subsidize it for students as they do many other electronic resources. So, I think the price would need to be $50/month or less to enable the struggling student to participate.

    I would also offer, unsolicited, my opinion that it might be helpful to law students to have an offering of some sort that would deal with the business side of law practice, as well as the fear of failure side while deciding whether or not to jump in.

    In law school we, at least I, get the impression that the only great attorneys are the ones who work at BigLaw and get the big bucks. If we had some examples of those who are specialists or at least especially successful at solving clients’ legal woes as solo practitioners I think my classmates would lean more towards trying the waters themselves.

    Many of us love the academic nature of studying law, though that is not very realistic a career path for most, and we are fed the attitude of our professors that academics are the ones who know. Now I might be wrong but it seems to me that while philosophizing about the nuances of law is all well and good, the little old couple without a will or the immigrant trying to get their family here, or the juvenile being denied her Gault rights doesn’t care so much about the ponderables, they/he/she really only want someone to help them with their issues. And if there was a legion of newly minted attorneys who kept its/their naivete alive long enough to hang out its/their own shingle those people would have more respect for the legal profession because they were HELPED by the legal profession, and that legion of newly minted attorneys might just be able to pay of all that student debt and provide for their families.

    Just my opinion, I could be wrong, as my friend Dennis Miller says as he ends HIS rants…

  • I echo Dave’s comments – in order to determine an appropriate price, it is important to know what the product is. Will the classes be accessible to any student who wants to take them? Are there any limits on class size? For an example, Sample Class A, has an opening run of teleseminars once a week for six weeks. 60 students enroll and participate. The faculty member has committed to one hour of formal faculty interaction a month, so 1-1/2 hrs for this 6-week class. For those 60 students, faculty access is essentially nil statistically, however, the students can still get the class content. If the formal faculty interaction is not important, then many more students can be reached with the same classes and the resulting price would be much lower than if each student gets some faculty time. If faculty interaction is more important, then class sizes will have to be limited. Also, how long are classes available? Will they be repeated periodically or downloadable? If so, will faculty interaction still be available?
    Just some things to think about in creating a price.

  • Here’s my take…

    At a “brick and mortar” University, I have access to all of the classes, just as you’ve stated you want to do with SPU. However, I don’t *pay* for all of the classes offered by the University. I pay for the classes I take, in the form of credit hours. That, to me, makes a whole lot of sense.

    For example, I might not need or be interested in taking a course on legal technology. But I might be interested in taking a course on marketing. Paying one “fixed price” just to have “access” to courses I’m not interested in and I’m not likely to take doesn’t provide value. On the other hand, nickle and dime charges suck.

    That’s why I like going back to the “brick and mortar” model. Charge a monthly/semester/yearly “tuition” that gives you access to X number of classes, allowing you to choose from the entire course catalog–no restrictions. But then also allow people to purchase additional courses if they find they want to take more.

    You might even come up with some “curriculum” guides that suggest a “semester” of complementary courses within the standard number of included courses.

    That’s my inclination… I think it allows more reasonable and flexible pricing.

  • Given the excellent faculty that have signed on and the enthusiasm of the founder, I’m comfortable with the $50-100 price range…at least initially. As a brand new solo, I’m sure I’ll be making alot of budget decisions over the upcoming months. As with everything else, if I feel that SPU is providing equal or greater benefit than the cost (again, I’m sure it will based on the developments I’ve seen to date) I’ll continue to sign up. To help SPU recover costs, maybe it would be appropriate to have a larger initial signup fee ($100-$150) followed by smaller monthly payments. This shouldn’t deter any solos who are serious about getting great advice and building their business, but might keep out non-serious types.

  • Oh, and I had a thought. If you could get the curriculum approved for various states’ CLE credit, I bet folks would be willing to pay more.

  • I like the idea of using a college tuition model. If semesters or quarters don’t work, maybe a monthly tuition would be appropriate. Of course a premium could/should be added for CLE credit courses. I also agree that something in the $50-100 per month range would be great.

    Is it possible that any part (or all) of the tuition is tax deductible? Business expense? Education credits?

    obviously my law school’s tax class was VERY basic (and theory based) but if the tuition is deductible it would make it more attractive (as would the ability to earn CLE credits

  • @Amber – It is not currently in our plan because it is rather complex to address all states and their individual requirements. However, that doesn’t preclude the future, but it would not be the immediate future.

  • I don’t think CLE credit is necessary. If it’s helpful, useful than it will be worth the time and cost.

    Concerning payment, I’d prefer a monthly fee.

  • @Clay – the way we have positioned SPU, CLE is incidental to the incredible benefits of being a part of the experience. If in the future we do CLE, it will be an ‘add on’ extra, but it is not, nor will ever be part of the core concept of SPU.

  • Great list of faculty.

    When is launch?
    Personally, the site should be free. Revenue could be generated by Google AdSense and selling ads to West, Lexis, ABA, office depot, etc, etc, etc. It is rare to see ‘fee’ sites nowadays, and a free model would comport with the way most of the rest of the internet sites for professionals operate. Also, since the people who would be utilizing the site the most are those just getting started or moving into solo private practice (like me), money is scarce.

    Of course if actual ‘course work’ and CLE/classes are offered with limited enrollment that might be a different story and I could see charging for that (ala Berklee Music bwww.berkleemusic.com).

    I am eager to join, but will probably forgo if $$$ are required for the basic services (forums, articles, blogging).

    My 2 cents.


  • @Squire –

    “Personally, the site should be free. Revenue could be generated by Google AdSense and selling ads to West, Lexis, ABA, office depot, etc, etc, etc. It is rare to see ‘fee’ sites nowadays, and a free model would comport with the way most of the rest of the internet sites for professionals operate.”

    See, Squire, SPU is different in every way and we do not plan to comport with the way most of the rest of the internet sites for professionals operate :-)

    We will not be held hostage to advertisers for products and services we believe DO NOT benefit solos or are ripping solos off! Our revenue model, which will be reasonable for ALL practitioners, will allow us to pick and choose those advertisers of products and services we believe truly are presenting a worthwhile offering for solos. Therefore, when you see a product or service available to you within our Co-op you know we’ve judged it to have real value, didn’t just need revenue to keep SPU afloat.

    This practice alone can save solos thousands by helping them to avoid costly mistakes.

  • I have hesitated to come up with ideas to add here about pricing. My solo startup is progressing very slowly, and I doubt I can afford to add anything to my budget this year. I don’t think I will be able to join for the first term whenever it starts, but I will certainly consider it in the future.

  • With the fantastic faculty you have assembled, I think the sky is the limit on the tuition you could charge. I don’t know any place online or off where lawyers can be exposed to this depth and breadth of knowledge and experience without paying really big bucks.

  • Fair enough Susan, and sorry about the crazy grammar and the mis-spelling of my own first name on the sig line. (whoops!) Me brain was nots working so goods that day.

    Site looks great and I like it a lot. Kudos to you!


  • To me the price point I would pay would depend on the usefulness and accessibility of the content. You seem to have a great ‘faculty’ I am just not sure how their knowledge, expertise, advise is going to be shared with us and on what topics. For instance as others have mentioned I might be interested in ‘e-law’ or whatever it is going to be called but not maybe not some traditional marketing techniques, can I pick and chose and pay accordingly? And how will the content be delivered and can I acccess it at my leisure on my schedule and once or more than once? I would envision a cost per download or something like that, maybe $100.00 per topic with the added feature of a paid members only message board for that topic. I suppose if the topic is more in depth or a larger number of ‘lectures’ then the price would rise accordingly – some topics can be covered more easily than others.

  • The $75-100 range sounds pretty good to me as a subscription, if the material continues to develop. I don’t have a philosophical problem with paying more, but would probably subject a higher payment to a more rigorous return-on-investment analysis in terms of net spendable money. If I were finding new ways to make my firm more profitable and my overall life more balanced, I could see paying more.

  • Hello,

    My thoughts are generally in line with the others above, but I also wanted to add a request to consider those with heavy student loan debt (myself and I’m sure many others) who are considering starting their own practice to help augment their limited income. This is not a sob story, but I would hope maybe the cost of SPU would stay in line with the financial considerations of those without a successful practice, yet. Thank you.

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