Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Saturday, June 11, 2005


I posted the first part of this on Friday, but I've added to it today, so if you read it yesterday, just scroll down to the ***.

So I'm done. I'm officially not a student anymore. Someone vested with some sort of authority by the President of the Board of Something who was on a podium too far away for me to really see granted me and my classmates a Doctor of Laws and pronounced us fit to help make the law a better thing. Or something to that effect. And then a couple of hours later I got to walk across a stage, tentatively following the student helpers designed to tell everyone when to stop, when to wait, when to walk, and where to look, and get a diploma, written in Latin, that will look great in my closet, until I get around to getting it framed, which would have been easy to do yesterday except I didn't. Still a little bizarre that I'm a law school graduate. I don't really know how that happened.

So I drove up on Tuesday evening with my mom and grandmother, and had trouble recognizing Harvard without the layer of slush. It's completely strange to feel too hot to do anything, since it's normally so much the opposite. After an uneventful five and a hour drive up, while parking the car I got too close to the car behind me and sideswiped them, leaving a scratch on their door and a ding in my stepdad's fender (bumper? whichever one is in the back), so we had a fun delay exchanging insurance information and generally making me feel like an incompetent driver (which I kind of am, but probably not as much as I think I am. I've never actually been in a moving vehicle accident, but this was the second parked car that I've dinged, and even though the other one was now 4 years ago, it still now with this addition feels like a pattern. I don't love driving, but I really don't like going in reverse. But, just a ding, and no big deal, and it didn't really screw anything up except my confidence that I'm not a complete idiot, so we exchanged information -- with the very pregnant woman whose car it was -- and off we went to dinner with some relatives). So, after a few moments of wanting to just turn around and go home, immediately, before I broke my grandmother like I broke the car, we went to dinner with some relatives in Boston, and that was fun, and then we drove (uneventfully) to the motel where we were staying and checked in.

A note on the motel. It made sense at the time we booked it, but I'm not sure why. Lots of people stayed at nice hotels, right near campus. I mean, the Charles Hotel at a thousand dollars a night (seriously, I think -- people sent e-mails trying to get rid of excess rooms they didn't need, and I think they said it was $1000/night, which I think is even more than they usually charge, because of graduation) would have been out of reasonable range, but I guess we could have done better than the Super 8 Motel in Watertown. Which looked closer on the map than it was. And by the time we booked, the first couple of places we called were sold out, and this seemed cheap and not too far... but it kinda sucked. The mattresses were made of the same material the walls were made of. Paper, that is. And the pillows were made of insulating foam. Or so it felt. Felt would have been better, actually. Nevermind, it's too early to try and be funny.

So we sort of slept, though not that well, and woke up Wednesday morning for Class Day. Class Day began with an Alumni Council lunch and a speech by Eliot Spitzer, which I hear was wonderful. But I forgot to buy tickets when they were on sale, so instead we went to IHOP for breakfast and skipped the event. A few things about IHOP. It seems, like KFC and the SAT, that IHOP is now not an acronym for anything, but just their name. Back in my day.... I remember when acronyms really stood for something. What was wrong with the International House of Pancakes? It's certainly more descriptive than IHOP. My grandma was confused and wanted to know why it's named IHOP. I didn't have a good answer except it's about three stores down from iParty, a party supply store that seems to think it's an Internet site instead of an actual store, or at least that's what whoever named it seems to think. The other interesting thing about IHOP was the seniors menu on the back where people 62 years of age or older can get much less food for slightly less money. It's quite a scam they have going for the older crowd. Because while for $6.99, you can get the International Breakfast Deluxe Monstronsity with 3 pancakes, 3 eggs, 3 links of sausage, 3 strips of bacon, hash browns, toast, syrup, all the coffee you can swallow, a stick of butter, a mound of lard, a teaspoon of jelly, a whole trout, some plaster of paris, a cup of lingonberries, and a entire Thanksgiving turkey, for $4.99, senior citizens can get a half triangle of french toast and a quarter-strip of bacon, on a really huge plate. We all shared the half-triangle of french toast, which even at it's comparatively small size would be enough to feed two or three law school sections, and, ready for the sudden onset of coronary artery disease, we proceeded back to the car.

My grandmother hadn't really slept enough the night before, so to make sure she'd be fresh for the day, and because the next event wasn't until 2:30, I took her and my mom back to the Super 8, gave them taxi instructions for meeting me an hour later for the Class Day session, and decided to take the bus to campus to pick up my cap and gown and graduation tickets, and return the library books I should have returned a month ago when I was still living on campus, but didn't.


So I went to pick up my cap and gown, and there was a prominently placed sign with a warning: "Please note: In the event of rain or excessive humidity, the dye in the gown can discolor your clothing. Please DO NOT wear the gown over valuable garments." Just to be sure, the clerk who handed me the gown called my attention to sign and told me, "So if it rains, the color will run. Consider yourself warned." And inside the package, there was a slip of paper that said the same thing. Three warnings. I can only imagine the situation the year before they started warning people. Throngs of angry graduates in discolored clothing, demanding their money back. Demanding back the $75 rental fee for something that would have cost $25 to buy. Demanding to have their dry cleaning bills paid. Demanding justice. I'm sure instead they got nothing. Except we who follow get warnings. Really, for $75, shouldn't they be able to find some gowns that don't discolor your clothes? And let's look at the warning for a moment. "Rain" I understand. I know what rain feels like. But "excessive humidity"??? This is New England in the summer. It's excessively humid every single day. Or do they just mean if I sweat? Is this a polite way of saying that everyone's going to know who the people are who are sweating through their clothing, so watch out? I don't know what "excessive humidity" means. They don't teach us that in law school. (Nor, just as an aside, do they teach us about "excessive humility," but maybe that's for another post.)

So I got the gown and I returned my library books and I got my tickets. The tickets which, incidentally, no one ever took. They made a big deal out of only giving us two tickets to the morning ceremony, and then they never even ended up checking them. But, anyway, pockets full of tickets, I met up with my mom and grandma to go to the Class Day event.

On the way, I passed a woman having trouble wheeling a piece of luggage. "Do you need help," I asked. "No thank you," she said. "But that Eliot Spitzer -- wasn't he wonderful? I'm going to vote for him RIGHT NOW." "Oh." I don't know where she was going. Where he was running for something RIGHT NOW and what that something was I have no idea. Oh well.

Anyway. We tried to sit in the shade. But the shade kept moving. We sat. It got sunny. We moved. It got sunny. I "went to the bathroom" but really just wanted to go inside and escape the sun. There was a very nice speech by the professor voted to win a teaching award, who I never had but now wish I did. There were nice introductions and speeches by a bunch of the class marshals, who are 3Ls we voted on last year to do this kind of stuff. There was a short speech by the head of the alumni association, basically telling us to donate money, and also some discussion of our "class gift" and which sections had donated the most money.

I don't understand why we should be expected to give money back to Harvard Law School when we've not even left yet. I mean, just generally I don't understand why if I was donating money somewhere it would be to somewhere with so much money already, that's charging a heck of a lot and not even necessarily doing that much good for the world -- do we need more corporate lawyers? But in any case, it's a little soon for them to be asking for money, I think.

The keynote speech was by a lawyer named Jeffrey Fisher who has argued before the Supreme Court and was named a top young lawyer by some magazines. He talked about how he got his chances to argue before the court. He was working on cases and the lawyers in charge didn't want to do it, so they asked him if he did. Okay.

After the Class Day speeches, we went to a reception where people got to meet their friends' parents, which was fun. My grandma is very good at talking to strangers. I didn't inherit that. But she was very happy to meet people, and ended up with more friends at law school than me. My favorite was when she'd compliment people on things they have no control over. "You're so tall. You'll make a great lawyer." She complimented two of my friends on their dimples. We ate enough of the little finger food that was around to make dinner irrelevant, which was nice.

After a whole bunch of time in the warm tent, I brought my mom and grandma into the air conditioned student center, and I wandered around to say hello to more people. Then we went back to the Super 8 and basically fell asleep immediately, since it was a long day in the hot sun and I was worn out making sure my grandma didn't say anything to embarrass me too badly (she didn't).

Commencement Day, Thursday, started early. There was a champagne breakfast at 7 AM. I would tell you about this if I made it there in time, but, alas, I did not. Couldn't get a cab from the motel (I wonder where everyone was going...) so I took the bus. The bus from Watertown to Cambridge is not that quick. But I made it in time to get in line with my cap and gown, and pray for no excessive moisture. My mom and grandma planned to leave the hotel at 8:00 to be a bit early for the 8:50 "this is when people will start walking in" time, and to get a seat. When I got there, one of my friends mentioned how his parents had gotten up at 5:00 to get seats. They ended up with better seats. He also helped me with my hood, since I had no idea what I was doing. "I know how to put on hoods" probably is a valuable skill in some parts of the country.

So we lined up and I was all the way in the back. Oh well. "4 across," they kept saying. They gave us plastic gavels as props to hold up when the law school was mentioned in the ceremony. Apparently they used to give inflatable sharks. I like that better. Some woman came up to where we were in line and asked if they were "real" gavels. She asked in an accusatory way, like we weren't really lawyers if we didn't have real gavels. I kind of wanted to hit her over the head with it to demonstrate, but that's probably a crime. If I knew any criminal law I might know the answer to that, but I don't.

Hours into the standing in line, we arrived at our holding pen, where the line no longer mattered and we could mix ourselves up and find our friends and make completely moot the line we had just been in. Why we couldn't show up to the holding pen at 9:00 I'm not really sure.

Then we walked in and got seats. I was almost on the end of an aisle -- there was an empty seat on the end, next to me. A reporter from Harvard Magazine (are they called reporters if they're from in-house publications like that? or are they just called PR people?) ended up sitting there. She didn't find my comment about the excessive moisture amusing. It probably won't end up in her article. I don't think she found anything I said amusing, especially the things I said partly for her benefit, in case she would find them amusing and write them down. She seemed to find little irony in the whole event. Oh well.

There were lots of anthems played by the orchestra. One of the Harvard anthems has the same tune as a Princeton fight song. I guess there's a limited number of Ivy League fight song melodies. Most of the anthems were credited to writers from the 1700s and 1800s, but one had a melody credited to a guy born in 1941. That's pretty cool to end up writing something that gets used in graduation and called an anthem, and not to be 200 years old. I was impressed.

Each school had props, like our plastic gavels. The education school had children's books. The medical school had latex gloves. The government school had inflatable globes. The business school had money. Sort of. The business school had international flags, but a few of the students on one side waved dollar bills instead. I think they were smart to do that. After all, other people may feel loyalty to their countries of origin, but they were simply admitting it doesn't matter, they just feel loyalty to the dollar. Other schools that don't exist and the things I imagine they would have held in the air if they did exist: the school of hotel management would have swipe cards, the driving school would have fuzzy dice, and the english grad school would have paper hats and french fry containers.

Then we went to the smaller law school ceremony. They gave us box lunches. My grandma's first comment upon opening the box: "I don't know if this is chicken, beef, or fish." Tasting it did not help. They were really quite dismal. Sources told me the vegetarian option was no better, but that the Kosher one was actually pretty good. Should've gone with that instead. They had us sort ourselves by first-year section and gave us pronounciation cards to fill out so the diploma reader would get our names right. Before the diploma ceremony, the lead class marshal and the Dean gave speeches.

The Dean's speech was about our pro bono requirement (40 hours). She said the average number of hours worked was (I think) something like 350. And that merely 11 members of the class had done the minimum. Sadly, I am one of the eleven. :) But that's not entirely fair, because the numbers are skewed by the ridiculousness of the requirement. You get pro bono credit for summer jobs that you get public interest funding for, so a lot of people got that from their 1L summers. You get credit for clinical courses. You get credit for a bunch of professor research stuff. You get credit for certain practice-related extracurriculars. So with all of those ways to get credit, sure most people have more than 40 hours. I just happened not to have had a public interest job or take any clinical classes or do research for professors or do the Prison Legal Assistance Project or anything nearly as law-related as that (you mean the Parody show doesn't count?). So I'm one of the eleven bringing down the average. Oh well.

Here's what I found most interesting about graduation. The Dean's speech was about pro bono and community service and how Harvard students are all so public service-minded. The speech by our class marshal (a very good speech, incidentally) highlighted a bunch of out-of-the-box things that graduates have done or are doing. It's the complete opposite from the focus while we're actually students. While we're students, all the talk is about law firms and recruiting and interview preparation and finding a job. But now that everyone has listened to them and found a law firm job, they want to talk about the other kinds of things law school graduates can do. Why wait until graduation to talk about this stuff? And no, it's not as stark as I'm putting it, but there's some truth to this, I think. The focus at school is different from what they want us to remember and think about on the way out. It's a little disingenuous, I think. Maybe I'm just imagining things. This argument made more sense at the time, and someone I told really thought it made sense, so maybe I'm just trying to convince myself there's a thought here, I don't know.

So after the diploma ceremony, I went to a cocktail party at a professor's house, that was up for auction at the public interest auction and one of my friends won it, so I decided it would be fun to go, and fun for my mom and grandma to get to meet a professor, and it was enjoyable and we had a good time, and then I drove back to NY Thursday night, didn't hit anything, my grandma didn't break anything, and now I am no longer a law student. Weird. Still sinking in.