(Nicholas Allard: "I did not leave a successful career navigating the partisan divides and gridlock in our nation's capital for a pleasant pre-retirement picnic in the Petrified Forest of the Land of Academia, where I could watch the moated Ivory Tower burn down.")
"A salesman is an it that stinks to please," wrote e.e. cummings. Indeed, one typical feature of successful salespersons is their infectious optimism. That is perhaps the main advantage that the law school scammers will always enjoy over the blogging resistance--well, that and the huge sums of money they allocate for marketing and recruiting. A steady stream of bad news and pessimism is enervating, even if well-founded, and the scammers provide an emotionally compelling narrative of leadership, opportunity, and justice, starring you.
In my opinion, the most egregious form of law school hype, aside from outright lying, involves packaging bad news as good news by strategically deploying a soothing or flattering word or phrase or a mixed-up analogy. This is not difficult to do, requiring only a certain self-confident glibness, an utter lack of conscience, and a contempt for the English language. But all endeavors have their naturally gifted stand-outs. As Wayne Gretzky was to hockey, so is Dean Nicholas Allard of Brooklyn Law to deceitful self-serving bullshit.
If your lemming-followers seem reluctant to take that leap of faith, assure them that they are mighty eagles. If your investors seem disappointed in their real-world returns, remind them that they enjoy ample and priceless intangible psychic benefits. If some naysayer uses terms like decline or stagnation, declare that it is an exciting season of transformation. If your grads can’t find a job, remind them how fortunate they are to have the flexibility to pursue, and even create, nontraditional opportunities. If some thirsty person seems, nonetheless, hesitant to slurp the hemlock you have served, be sure to describe it as a powerful and life-changing refreshment available only to an elite of true connoisseurs. Bottoms up!
With that introduction, consider the words of wisdom that Dean Allard brayed at the 2013 graduating class of Brooklyn Law School on Commencement Day, June 7, 2013. Wait, did I just say, "graduating class"? Please allow me to amend that drab and uninspiring little phrase. Surely, I meant "secular rabbis," "master[s] of the language of liberty," "agents of powerful legal change," "adventurers," "pioneers," "architects of bridges across divides," "engineers of consensus from chaos," "crusaders for the voiceless," "guardians of our enduring democratic republic," "role models teaching upcoming generations," "drum major[s] for justice," and "Wayne Gretzky."
1. "What a daunting, exhilarating, fabulous time to begin your careers, wherever they might take you, on paths as yet uncharted."
2. "For the first time in the history of mankind, lawyers are the adventurers, the 21st century pioneers."
3. "Today you become the new guardians of our enduring democratic republic."
4. "Whether you will serve as a judge or public official, as an officer of the court, a champion of the unpopular cause, a drum major for justice, or a successful corporate counsel as was Abraham Lincoln, for example, your law degree is not meant to be a mere slip of processed parchment collecting dust with other bric-a-brac and tchotchkes."
5. "The walls protecting the traditional citadel of law practice are tumbling down by super storm trumpet blasts of change. . . letting all of you out to pursue your life’s work wherever and however you choose; free to use your hard earned license for critical thinking and critical problem solving, in myriad new ways; maybe doing work lawyers never did before."
6. "You will also grasp and master how advanced information technology in a mobile interconnected world disrupts and transforms law and you will teach us at the law school how best to prepare your younger legal siblings to follow you using new technology."
7. "You are ready for the new world of law. The education you have gained at our great Law School, the sweat equity you have put into your studies, your hours and hours of training, the honing of your mind into the finest tool known to mankind prepares you to be agents of powerful legal change — change for the better."
8. "What, indeed, is the worth of your legal education? What value will it have to justify the investment you and your families have made with your dollars, your efforts, and your time?"
a. "First, by mastering the language of liberty, the language lawyers speak, you learned much more than how to do well for yourself, you now can do good. . . .I look out at you today and I see each of you who have such promise. I truly hope we have encouraged you to use law to fight the good fight, to correct wrongs, resolve disputes, advance economic opportunity and participatory democracy and, above all else, to uphold justice. . . ."
b. "Second, you have learned how to make society work. We lawyers are inextricably woven into the fabric of America and serve by giving the pluralistic tapestry of our nation the strength and flexibility to survive and weather change and diversity. . . ."
c. "Third, you are now equipped to be the mentors and role models teaching upcoming generations - lawyers are the secular rabbis of our society."
9. "And remember how flexible your skills are. Your education enables you to work in countless private sector and public sector fields. All of you sitting here can be architects of bridges across divides, engineers of consensus from chaos, crusaders for the voiceless and disenfranchised."
10. "In addition there are fields in which the demand for legal services is expanding — demand for your services is up — areas where you can get in on the ground floor and build a career as an expert, such as alternative dispute resolution, compliance and risk management, financial regulation, health, communication and internet law, privacy and data security, to name a few."
11. "Hockey legend Wayne Gretsky famously advised to skate where the puck is going, not where it’s been. It is not easy, but look for jobs where they will be, not where they were."