Please enjoy the commencement speech that Northwest 3L’s school threatened to expel him for. – Ed.
Good afternoon. I’d like to start by reminding whoever nominated me to give this speech that I’ll figure it out eventually. And once I do, well, you have to sleep eventually. As for everyone who voted for me, well, I hope you’re happy with how this turns out.
We’re all here today for one reason. We’ve spent over $100,000 for a small piece of paper that, in real terms, is nothing more than a permission slip to let us take the bar exam. A test that has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual practice of law and for which our three years of law school have not even come close to preparing us. We’ve read cases and studied obscure academic theories of justice but received no actual instruction in the practice of law beyond that which we sought on our own through internships and externships.
We’ve suffered through classes taught by professors who have less experience outside academia than our own second-career classmates. We’ve lived with an administration that thinks an academic paper is a substitute for actual training in how to create legal work product and that a clinic serving people who don’t even have business plans is an accurate representation of the correct way to run an entrepreneurial law practice. We’ve put up with a career services office that thinks people with several years of work experience should force a resume down to one page.
What we should be taking away from all this is that the last three years don’t mean much. The only thing we’ve done so far is prove that we’re willing to jump through a series of arbitrary hoops. The successes we’ve had here aren’t important. Employers might give them a little weight, but our clients won’t. Order of the Coif won’t matter to a client who’s had the statute of limitations toll on her injury claim because your office scheduling system glitched and you weren’t paying enough attention to notice. The mother fighting through a divorce from an emotionally abusive husband doesn’t care if you were on law review, she wants custody of her children so that she can build a better life with them. Law school has taught us how to manage neither of these situations.
What’s important is not the last three years. It’s not today. It’s not three to four months from now when the bar results are finally released. What’s important is how we deal with the real world — where our mistakes will put more than an artificial class rank at risk. To those who’ve only done just enough to get by, shape up. Clients won’t put up with that crap. To those who’ve achieved high honors here in academia, well done, but remember that those honors mean nothing if you don’t serve your clients well. Law is a trade, like any other. The client is looking for a result, not merely a well-delivered argument.
Good luck, and may your inevitable malpractice go unnoticed.