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Toobin Encourages HLS Grads To Be Imaginative

Harvard Law School Class Day Speaker Jeffrey Toobin '86, legal analyst for CNN and the New Yorker, encourages graduating law school students to practice beyond academic grades and achievements.
Harvard Law School Class Day Speaker Jeffrey Toobin '86, legal analyst for CNN and the New Yorker, encourages graduating law school students to practice beyond academic grades and achievements.
By Dev A. Patel, Crimson Staff Writer

Journalist, lawyer, and award-winning author Jeffrey R. Toobin ’82 told over 700 Harvard Law School graduates to be imaginative with their careers amid a declining and transforming job market during the school’s class day ceremony on Wednesday.

Toobin, who graduated from the Law School in 1986, said that the graduating class bears a responsibility to use their Harvard degrees to better society. “Now you have to go out and make that great degree work for you and the rest of us,” he said.

Toobin’s speech comes as law school graduates across the country face a declining job market. “2013 is not the greatest time in history to graduate from law school,” he said.

But Toobin, a former Crimson sports and editorial editor, pointed out that students graduating from Harvard face a far healthier job market. In 2012, just 56.2 percent of graduates secured full-time, long-term positions that require the passage of the bar exam. That same year, over 87 percent of Harvard’s Class of 2012 filled comparable positions.

“You’re Harvard lawyers,” he said. “That gets people’s attention from Cambridge to Cambodia.”

Many say that the dearth of jobs is caused by an excess in the number of lawyers, but Toobin described that belief as “only true in a limited sense” in an interview with The Crimson.

“There’s not an oversupply for people who really need them,” he said. “I think it’s incumbent for people who are privileged to help those who really need it.”

In his speech, Toobin advised graduates that navigating a changing job market would require skills beyond those they learned in school.

“Students do what they’re told,” he said, adding that the rapidly changing nature of the legal profession requires students to build upon whichever jobs exist. “Even if you go to the largest law firm in the world, you will have to invent your own career,” he said.

Graduating students said that Toobin’s speech offered them the chance to reflect on the trajectory of their own employment aspirations.

“I took away the idea to try to find your own path and do whatever you like that makes a difference,” said Jake Laperruque, a third-year student at the Law School.

Kibrom T. Teweldebirhan, an LL.M. student, said he took away the message that one’s career “all depends on your own creativity.”

Jordan C. Wall, one of the class marshals, said Toobin “really illuminated what’s ahead of us.”

“We have the opportunity to do whatever we want,” Wall said. “We need to be open to adapting.”

Toobin told The Crimson that he was “extremely flattered” when he first heard he would give the class day address. “I just loved law school,” he said, describing his experience at Harvard Law School as “the most challenging and interesting part of my education.”

“I feel that my life as a journalist is sort of like being a perpetual law student,” he added.

—Staff writer Dev A. Patel can be reached at devpatel@college.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter @dev_a_patel.

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CommencementHarvard Law SchoolUniversityClass DayUniversity NewsCommencement 2013