Sunday, February 24, 2008

On Consumers and Diplomas

After a few months, I received my “BAR Card,” which is a rather underwhelming plastic card issued by the State Bar of California with your ID number and other limited information on it. I’m debating whether I even want to keep it in my wallet (and just remember to take it with me when I go to court).

Something else I’ve received in the mail is an oversized certificate from the Supreme Court of California recognizing that I have been admitted to practice in this state. Currently, it is sitting on top my J.D. certificate from Boalt Hall, my B.A. diploma certificate from Syracuse University, and my high school diploma. They are literally collecting dust on top of a bookcase.

Should I bother displaying them in my office? I think about 60% of the other attorneys in my office have them displayed on their walls.

I have two issues.

First, don't people have to assume that if I'm a lawyer, I probably went to (and graduated from) high school, college, and law school? Will posting a certificate on my wall give them some added confidence or is it really for my own benefit? Is its only purpose to allow me to basque in my own satisfaction of having graduated? If it is, then I'm not interested.

I'm always put off when I go into any doctor's office and there are like five or six certificates posted, all supposedly there to inspire me in my doctor's abilities. It doesn't, frankly. And it just exudes self-importance. Maybe doctors are required to have them posted, I'm not sure.

A common retort is that I've spent so much money on obtaining that degree, so I should (somehow) feel compelled to hang it up on the wall because not doing so would (somehow) mean that I'm throwing my education away. I think I have as much interest in a physical diploma as a graduation ceremony. I think we can all agree that both are just for show. My question is, who am I supposed to be showing it to?

My second issues is that I have a profound distrust of any merchandise related to graduation or academic achievement. This includes the cap and gown that you 'rent' for more than the value of the cap and gown, the plethora of honor societies whose entire purpose is to sell you a shoddy yearbook for about $60.00, graduation photos, yearbook announcements, school chairs, folios, and an infinite number of other crap that is geared to make you feel like if you don't buy it, you're missing out on some memory.

And now, I have before me the option of spending hundreds of dollars on a pretty lame wall frame for my certificates. And, of course, for twenty additional dollars, I can get a "special" frame, which basically means that I'm not supposed to buy the regular frame since it is not "special" enough to allow me to commemorate this event.

Diplomas make my teeth hurt.

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