I hate it when lawyers mindlessly jabber about "public service" or "giving back" or our alleged duty to "serve the community," as if we have some moral obligation above that of medical doctors, corporate managers, accountants, or truck drivers. As I’ve written here, this nonsensical blather often comes from highly paid bureaucrats at state bar associations who are trying to put a good face on the legal profession. And as I’ve written here, other times it comes from judicial candidates who are vying for incredibly high paying judgeships, but need to offer up a more palatable reason for why they want the gig. But now it’s graduation time, and the law school industrial complex is minting thousands of new JDs. And along with the graduation ceremonies comes commencement speakers who spew out creative new twists on this worn out public service mantra. The most creative twist this year goes to the
commencement speaker who told the graduates that their degree doesn’t really
belong to them; instead, it “belongs to our whole community.” Northeastern University
Do the Northeastern law grads really need to hear this kind of nonsense? They already rank among the most indebted of any law school at $134,918. Probably not uncommon, however, is the Northeastern law graduate with over $200,000 in debt. And if a prospective student was to start law school at Northeastern this fall without a scholarship, Law School Transparency estimates that this unlucky soul would graduate with a total dead load of $236.615. (These numbers vary because some might not include living expenses, accrued interest on the money borrowed, etc.) And job prospects out of this school — as is the case with most non-elite schools — aren’t exactly great.
The commencement speaker’s claim — that the law graduates’ educations belong not to them but to the entire community — is indeed novel. But one thing about it that’s not surprising is its source: this offensive twist on the public service mantra is brought to you by the state’s attorney general — yet another government employee earning well into the six-figure range while lecturing about public service. In fact, one website indicates that, way back in 2010, the predecessor attorney general earned $133,644 plus the usual smorgasbord of government benefits. To me, that sounds more like taking from the community than "giving back" to the community.
The newly minted Northeastern JDs who are lucky enough to find jobs should compare this number to their own salaries, and then see how they feel about sharing their degrees with their community.