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Graduation is dumb. This is what I have thought during each of my five graduations. They none of them carried a sense of finality; it was just another bumper session before I went to a new school where I would graduate, again. In fact, the only way to entertain myself was by giving grad speeches — really good ones which never involved a road metaphor. I was shocked to have my sterling streak end at four by a certain South Side school. Still, I could at least bring my book whilst the dean read off 1,000 names. Three hours of reading a student directory. More people were handed diplomas than lived in the town I grew up in. Actually, no one is handed a diploma. You’re handed a rolled up slip of paper. The actual diploma is picked up later. I’m sitting there, glaring back at the sun, waiting to shake the hand of a dean who cut my department like a loose thread, thinking, “Graduation is dumb.” Graduation is meant to commemorate achievement. Some dig that. Graduation is a photo op in which even Quasimodo would strike a dashing figure in cap and gown, boogying down to “Pomp and Circumstance.” Mothers dig that. Graduation is when I got to hug Anna P., even though we never talked since I chickened out of asking her for her number in orientation. I dug that. Law school graduation, however, is not dumb — it really is the first day of the rest of your legal life. With no more schooling, I guess there’s nothing else they need us to know. This graduation day will forever segregate our school days from our work days. This shall be the day you bid adieu to the student life and its sandal-wearing ways. From now on, chatting will be done by the water cooler, not in hallways, and all confabbing shall be done in socks. The future-shocking thought bouncing its way through the heads of future legal scholars is: “Holy legal brief, Batman! Someone out there is really going to trust me with his life and livelihood!” This thought may trepidate that not un-narrow segment of law students who came to law school without knowing what they were going to do nor why. Now, someone who doesn’t know what they are doing themselves (which is the reason anyone goes on to be a lawyer) is counting on you. Superman crumbled awestruck at his great powers when they were thrust upon him. He was in shock that he was different and powerful forever. And that’s what lawyers are: a race of folks that look human but carry superhuman powers. Krypton was actually a whole planet of lawyers, which is why The Fates saw fit to destroy it. No one gains more power in less time than the graduating 3L. We’re graduating from playing virtual solitaire in class to handling someone’s life. I could barely handle my own � that’s why I went to school. But hey, once you pass the Bar, you’re the kind of guy the ABA wants people to trust. Laymen are powerless before The Law. They seek an anointed being who has The Power. By the time you have The Power, life will change: Trust will bifurcate: all or nothing. The man on the street who, hearing you’re a lawyer, will immediately distrust you because you’re so powerful and know how to maneuver around the rules. When he becomes your client, he’ll trust you with his life, because you’re so powerful and know how to maneuver around the rules. No more theory. Instead of waxing philosophical hypotheticals in legal ethics, you’ll be living these decisions every hour. Don’t worry about the MPRE. Now the (super)person who will have to live with your choices isn’t your legal ethics prof, but you. No more slacking. Instead of just the two days a year you take finals, you and your reputation will be judged every day you munch a (super)power lunch. Dues-paying has not ended. In fact, it will now kick in. After the joy ride of Bar-cramming, verdant associates are nailed with serf’s hours, discovery’s drudgeries, the dirty work in a dirty field. Disillusionment usually grows — festers. Some find that practicing law cures the alienation of law school. But for most, if you hated the law — not just law school — from day one, you are likely to hate your career. Like a plague-ridden Wales, get out at the first warning signs. “If you aren’t sure, the sooner you get out, the better.” A silver lining? Of course there is. Someone out there is going to find purpose (or even their destiny) in the law. They’re going to enjoy living off pizza. Because they’ve found their place. I hear it all the time: “I started to work at the [fill in non-prestigious "only $60,000 salary" job]‘s office thinking I’d only stick around for a year. But just yesterday someone left a [fill in large number divisible by five]-year pin on my desk.” Someone will discover how they really are a hero. No field carries with it greater potential polarity. New lawyers might save or destroy whole rainforests — free or convict kiddie-porn Gargamels. Graduation really does afford the opportunity to consider what kind of lawyer — as opposed to what kind of advocate — to be. For some, graduation may be the first time the problem is considered. Graduation should be the day you question what you will do with your Power. Yet no one is questioning at this fork in the road. Why? A Blaring Bar Boulder casts its supercilious shadow of will-I-pass syndrome on every 3L. Graduation is something of a misnomer as, soon as you graduate, a new and harder test awaits. I’m waiting to see a graduator flipping through her BarBri manual while she waits for her name to be called. With The Bar looming, all pivotal ethics issues fall by the wayside. “I’ll be ethical once I pass The Bar.” The Bar stops those who fail from being lawyers, and stops those who pass from considering how to be good lawyers, as opposed to just being good at lawyering. Don’t let The Bar take away what graduation should be. Don’t let The Bar eclipse from your mind what you’ll do with your Power once you’ve passed. When skydiving, there’s a moment of truth before the big jump when you figure out what your mental approach will be. Once you’re falling, once you’re lawyering, it’s rare to change your approach, your mentality. The power is there. You don’t just “have the power” — you are the power. The question is, will you be a hero or a villain? Being a villain is a power of its Machiavellian own. Being a hero may mean no cape or snazzy slogan, but the lives you save are real. There is a lack of heroes. There is also a glut of villains. Proof: hero.com and superhero.com are both consulting firms. People think money is a hero. Ha! If I turned you into money, would you then be a hero? Heroes are what they do, not what they are. Preachy am I? It won’t seem that way when it’s real. Everything you do with the law after graduation is for real, for keeps. And graduation is the time to remember that every day for the next 40 years is a chance to be a hero. Up, up and away! Mitch Artman is a 1L at the University of California, Hastings.

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