Give Emory University law school professor Sara K. Stadler credit for originality.
At the law school's May 9 graduation, she dumped optimistic commencement speech cliches for a lesson in tough love, telling the Class of 2011 to stop fretting over the dearth of big money jobs.
"Get over it," said Stadler. "The one thing standing in the way of your happiness is a sense of entitlement."
Stadler, who once worked for Sullivan & Cromwell and the firm then known as Kilpatrick Stockton, said it is more lucrative to deal in complexity than to simplify: "Many employers (big law firms, for example) have oriented their entire practices to deal with -- and even to create -- as much complexity as possible."
"You say, 'Great, more work for lawyers, right?' Don't count on it," Stadler said, according to a text of her speech.
Such work requires experienced lawyers, so big firms are hiring fewer new grads, she said, while real legal need lies with the "millions of people" who "can't get in the door of a big firm" or federal agency.
Many grads don't have jobs, or didn't get the job they wanted, she said, adding, "You might not be able to land that job."
"I'm sure Emory has failed you in some way," Stadler added, saying she wished she could change that. But the terrible job market, she said, offers opportunity for happiness.
"You might have to move to Nebraska. … You might have to join a small firm where they don't make the big bucks," she said. "You might also have to learn to be a giver, not a taker. Givers tend to be happy people. Takers are never satisfied. I want you to be satisfied with your professional lives. To look back later and say … look at the people I helped … to simplify the parts of their lives that intersected with the law. Because that's what everyone wants. That's what they need. And that's what the law needs, too."