Commencement

It’s not every day that the student selected to speak at a law school commencement admits that he went to law school because he watched the movie My Cousin Vinny. You certainly don’t often hear Mr. Cousin Vinny admit that he thought going to law school would be the key to a job with a top salary.

But then again, you don’t often watch the valedictorian’s speech for the class of 2012 at Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

The thing is… instructive. I’ve heard a bunch of commencement speeches, but mainly from Ivy League types. The student speaker at a school like Cooley is, well, different.

Take a look, and a listen….

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So far this year, we haven’t had any huge commencement kerfuffles over graduation speakers at law schools. Last year, you’ll remember that Michigan Law was in a tizzy over Dean Evan Caminker’s pick of Ohio Senator Rob Portman as a commencement speaker. Portman is one of those anti-marriage equality types, and Michigan Law students actually organized a walkout to protest his divisive views.

This year, Michigan has gone with a much more conservative choice.

Paul Caron at Tax Prof Blog has published his annual list of law school commencement speakers. Michigan Law’s choice is boring, but let’s see if we can’t find somebody else on this list to get excited about…

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Here are a couple of things I learned last week:

1) Above the Law readers love commencement train wreck stories.
2) Emory Law students feel picked on.

Armed with this new information, I bring you stories of commencement ridiculousness at schools with student bodies mature enough to take a little scrutiny.

Graduation has come and gone at Yale Law School and Harvard Law School. And while most Yale and Harvard graduates have jobs lined up for this fall, the transition from student to graduate did not go as smoothly as possible. At one school, a Supreme Court justice essentially had to crash the ceremonies. At another school, it seems the smart people organizing the event were totally flummoxed by the naturally occurring phenomenon of rain.

You’d think that with 380-plus years of combined experience, these two law schools could figure out how to run a graduation ceremony. But apparently there’s no accounting for common sense….

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Professor Sara Stadler

Yesterday I wrote about the Emory Law School commencement address delivered by Professor Sara Stadler. In it, she told graduating law student that their own “sense of entitlement” was standing in the way of their happiness.

I’ve got nothing against Professor Stadler or Emory Law, but I personally thought this was the wrong note to strike at a commencement address — and so did some Emory Law students, who contacted us about this in the first place.

But other Emory Law students disagreed. And after yesterday’s post went up, some students emailed Above the Law to express support for Professor Stadler and her message. They stated that she is an excellent teacher and was speaking at commencement by popular demand — Emory students voted on which faculty member they wanted to hear from.

Nobody raised a factual issue about what she said, and you can experience the full speech on YouTube. It’s just that some of the students really liked her address.

Fair enough. Professor Stadler’s critics have already had their say. Now let’s hear from some readers who appreciated and enjoyed her graduation remarks…

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Honestly, I think it’s time to feel sorry for the Emory Law class of 2011. Things are tough for a lot of graduating law students, but the way the Emory administration and faculty have treated the class of ’11 is simply shocking. If you ranked ABA-accredited law schools based on how the administration reacts to student concerns, Emory would have to rate near the bottom.

We can’t know how Emory has been treating the class of ’11 internally, but the ridiculous public behavior started when U.S. News released its most recent law school rankings. Emory plummeted eight spots, one of the biggest drops within the first tier. Since then, the Emory administration has gone to such lengths to cover its ass that there’s been a run on butt plugs in Georgia.

All of the self-serving rhetoric and “blame the students” mentality crested during commencement, where the class of 2011 couldn’t even receive their diplomas without being scolded and condescended to…

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Is it really that hard to make a commencement speech? I wrote one in high school. It was basically about seizing the day. My friend made one in college. Same theme, only in Latin. You can also make commencement speeches about giving back to your community, the importance of education, or how your generation is the most awesome generation ever to be generated. It’s not hard, people.

And yet people consistently screw it up. Today we have two different ways that people can screw up a commencement speech — one example from an old person, one example from a young person. One example from a very good law school, one example from a school that isn’t ranked that highly.

Apparently, anybody can screw up a commencement address if they try hard enough….

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Are tickets to law school commencement like organs? Or babies?

They’re not as necessary as organs, and they’re not as adorable as babies. But are graduation tickets, like organs and babies, so sacred that we should not allow them to be distributed through the free market?

(Some folks, like certain Chicago School law-and-economics types, think that we should be allowed to sell organs and/or babies. For better or worse, however, the rest of society hasn’t gone along with them.)

Let’s take a look at the commencement controversy brewing at one noteworthy law school….

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Oh, I kid the grammar nazis because I’m really bad at it and making jokes is easier than contemplating my own shortcomings. But even I can acknowledge that some typos are distracting. Give me another sentence and I’ll show you — or maybe I have already (that’s an honest question: I’ve got no damn clue just at the moment).

Luckily, I write on the internet, and I have a legion of free copy editors who are happy to help me correct mistakes in real time. If I worked in a more permanent medium… well, let’s just say that I hope that never happens.

Let’s just pray that I’m never in charge of writing copy for people’s graduation ceremonies. Those memories are supposed to last a lifetime and you just wouldn’t want administrative carelessness to ruin anything. You simply don’t want mistakes like this invitation to a law school commencement…

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We told you yesterday that Michigan Law has decided to invite Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to speak to its 3L class for senior day. We told you that many Michigan Law students have objected to the choice of Senator Portman, because of his strong anti-gay rhetoric on the issue of gay marriage.

We told you that Michigan Law Dean Evan Caminker — the hottest law school dean in America, by the way — didn’t respond to our request for comment. We wondered, though, if he would dig in his heels against the LGBT community at his school, or if he would try to be sensitive to the concerns of minorities at his school who would like to enjoy basic civil rights.

Well, Dean Caminker decided to dig in, and in so doing kind of totally missed the point…

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What’s more strange about that headline? That Michigan Law would invite a guy who stands against the civil rights of certain members of the Michigan Law community, or that Michigan Law would invite a representative from Ohio to speak to its outgoing students?

I’m going with the latter. Rob Portman graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1984, but he has gone on to become the junior senator from Ohio. Ohio! In related news, Bo Schembechler was born in Ohio and went to college at Miami of Ohio, but I don’t think he was ever the keynote speaker during an Ohio athletics Hall of Fame ceremony.

Sadly, the fact that Michigan invited a guy who has taken a strong stance against the civil rights of gay people probably isn’t that out of the ordinary. Sure, at some point these anti-gay-marriage people will look as tolerant as pre-conversion George Wallace in front of a desegregated schoolhouse. But right now these enemies of love get to walk among us as regular people.

Guys at my high school used to have ignorant and flawed views about gay people all the time. It was no big deal.

But some students at Michigan Law are trying to make it a big deal. And that’s pretty exciting….

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