Soggy Seniors

My sympathies to BU and other Boston-area seniors who are trying to enjoy their last week as undergraduates.  Yesterday was 50 degrees, gray, and wet, today is 50 degrees, gray, and wet, and the forecast is the same for the rest of the week.   Just remember that you did not come to Boston for the weather (except for one particular reader from hot, dry, and sunny Dubai who responds with envy to my weather-related posts.)

All Addressed Up With No Place to Go

I practiced my commencement address at Agannis today, to get a sense of the acoustics and feel of the room.  Empty of bodies, it’s cavernous.  The delivery was fine, if weird without eye contact.  I scanned the empty chairs imagining them filled with students.  I keep tinkering with the speech, rearranging clauses, adding and subtracting words. A few days ago weighed in at a trim 962 words. New transitions and reinforcements of theme have brought it up to 1,017 words.  I wanted very much to keep it under a 1,000.  We’ll see.  I have 23.5 hours.

The theme?  I hate that question.  It’s about graduation, what else?  Not specific enough?  It’s about rejecting black-and-white answers and embracing gray area.  What does that mean?  You’ll have to hear the speech.

Alternative Education

Some career-driven folks jump right into the belly of the beast after graduation.  Others take the leisurely route, like many who graduated college in the early- to mid-1970s.   I was focused on a career as a public-interest lawyer; I satisfied my need to meander when I left college after my sophomore year.  The writer of the NY Times May 1 Op-Ed titled “The Pink Floyd Night School” wandered for five years after college.  Worth reading, whether you are one of the driven or one of the aimless.

Pomp & Circumstance

6:00 AM, Logan Airport, Terminal B, Gate 34, awaiting boarding of AA #1909 to Miami. I’m missing tomorrow’s BU graduation to attend my oldest son’s graduation from law school. We happened to park in Garage B location 3L. Third-year law student? He is the third lawyer in our family? Quite portentous.

Congratulations to all graduating seniors. I’m sorry I won’t see you tomorrow as you cross the stage to receive your (empty) diploma case and shake the Dean’s hand. I wish you all the best. Stay in touch.

Thinking of Law School? Read This

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled “How to Cut Debt, Boost Job Prospects from Law School” (subscription required) addresses some issues raised here over the past few months about careers in the law (See Legal Careers, Not Covered by LSAT Prep, To Be* or Not to Be*, Women and the Law, Lawyer’s Life). The Journal article echoes much of the advice I give about law school; these are the highlights, reordered to my preferences.

  • Be a big fish. This is my primary piece of advice. Finishing at the top of your class at a regional law school will grab the attention of employers local employers. Unless you are extremely confident that you will place high enough in a nationally-ranked school to land the type of job you seek, going to a school where you can be a star will likely better serve your career.
  • Think about location. This goes hand-in-hand with being a big fish. “[I]n at least half of all states, at least 60% of graduates got an in-state job, according to the National Association for Law Placement, in part because most employers are more familiar with schools in their region.” If you want to find a job on the other side of the country then you should attend a nationally-ranked law school. If you will remain in the area after graduation then being in the 50th percentile of your class at a national school will not get you more interviews than being one of the top ten in your class at a regional school. The school’s alumni are likely to be well-entrenched in the local legal market and will open doors for a person at the top of his or her class.
  • Look for transfer opportunities. It is generally easier to get into a nationally-ranked school as a 2L than as a 1L. Be a big fish, excel in your first year, and you may be able to transfer to a nationally-ranked school.
  • Consider an in-state public school. “An in-state public law school costs about half as much, on average, as a private school or a public school for out-of-state residents.” If you will not attend a national law school, why pay considerably more to attend a regional school if there is a state alternative?

“A New Life Phase”

A few days ago a friend sent me The Odyssey Years, a New York Times op-ed piece by David Brooks about “the decade of wandering that frequently occurs between adolescence and adulthood. During this decade, 20-somethings go to school and take breaks from school. They live with friends and they live at home. They fall in and out of love. They try one career and then try another.” The Brooks piece resonated with my friend, a former student who graduated in 2006 and now works for an investment bank. He said “there’s just so much pressure to succeed for young people (and it’s such an obscure definition, it no longer involves forming a cohesive family unit and living a pleasant life.)” It spoke to me as a college professor who spends hours talking with students about What Comes Next, and as a parent whose children do not spend hours talking with him and his wife about What Comes Next. I sent the op-ed to my sons, all in their 20s. One said “it fits a little too well.” Another said “good to know I’m not alone.” The third, a law student on the verge of graduation and a career, delivered his message by not responding.

If you are in college, a recent graduate, have friends who are in college or recent graduates, are moving from job to job with no clear plan, know someone who is moving from job to job with no clear plan, or are the parent of anyone in any of these categories–in other words, if you are anyone who is reading this post–read the op-ed piece.

Thank you . . .

to the School of Management Class of 2007 for honoring me with the Beckwith Prize for Teaching Excellence and Service to the Undergraduate Program. A prize for either teaching excellence or service would be wonderful; this is a double treat. I was not at the SMG graduation to accept it because I was attending my son Josh’s English Department graduation from the College of Arts and Sciences. This is what I asked to be read in my absence:

Woody Allen said “90% of life is just showing up” but he didn’t explain how to show up in two places at the same time. I’m honored and touched that the Class of 2007 has selected me to receive the Beckwith Award. I regret that I cannot be here to celebrate your graduation—only my own family celebration could keep me away. You have become an important part of our lives and your departure is bittersweet. I wish you continued success—and please, stay in touch.