Home / Editor's Notebook / Pomp, under the Circumstances

Pomp, under the Circumstances

It’s almost graduation time at Virginia’s eight law schools. They will turn out students who have been trained as lawyers (they’re not yet attorneys – you get that title once you pass a bar exam).

You have to wonder what will happen in Charlottesville.

Will there be a protest at the University of Virginia law commencement to build on last month’s law-placement rhubarb? In March at the U.Va. law school, there was a student protest effort. A group of law students was unhappy that they spent three years of their lives and a lot of money and now they don’t have jobs waiting for them. During the weekend when admitted prospective students were visiting, the protesters walked around wearing T-shirts that said, “Virginia Law – $40,000 a year and NO JOB.” They blamed the administration, apparently, for overselling their employment prospects.

These are students who started law school in the fall of 2008, just when the economy began cratering. Three years at a safe haven are better than three years in the unemployment line, which is where some of their college colleagues probably have been.

Watch to see if there is some grand gesture at the U.Va. festivities, or whether the speaker, U.S Attorney General Eric Holder, says anything about the flap.

Up at the University of Michigan law school, officials likely are holding their collective breath until graduation comes and goes. Their scheduled speaker for “Senior Day,” their equivalent of commencement, is an alumnus, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio and UM Law Class of ’84. However, the invitation to Portman sparked a student protest petition, asking Dean Evan Caminker to disinvite the senator. The protesters object to Portman’s views on gay rights (he has consistently voted against measures to enhance them). The dean recently reiterated his support for the invitation, saying the school does not want to be associated with “ideological censorship.”

Caminker, in settling the Portman invitation matter, said that UM’s Senior Day should be “a day of celebration and not controversy…I am deeply distressed that the celebratory mood will be dampened.”

Caminker is right – graduation is, and should be, a happy and optimistic time. Even if the economy and job market aren’t where we all want them to be. Memo to any potential protesters at U.Va.: Many of your classmates, not to mention their families who paid that $40K a year, will be looking to mark a grand accomplishment, not to listen to petulance.

All the speakers at the state’s law commencements (see item in the VLW Blog) no doubt will offer well-earned congratulations and urge the new grads to go off and do good works. That’s standard fare and appropriate. The mission for all graduation speakers everywhere is to check the bromides at the door and to say something new and even memorable.

At my graduation in 1979 from the College of Knowledge down in Williamsburg, the featured speaker was Jeff MacNelly, the Pulitzer-winning editorial cartoonist and creator of “Shoe,” possibly the best comic strip ever.

MacNelly had three bits of advice:
1. Find a job you like.
2. Work like hell.
3. Keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.

Words to heed from Grundy to Charlottesville to Fairfax to Virginia Beach and all points in between.

One comment

  1. Someone needs to remind these entitlement crybabies that nobody ever guaranteed them a job when they got out of law school . . . because they couldn’t. The real world can be hard. This is not the first recession and tight job market in history. Generations of newly graduated lawyers fought their way through similar downturns. You would hope that these graduates wouldn’t be learning this fact for the first time. Time to don the big-boy pants and act like adults.

Leave a Reply