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Celebrities share laughs and advice with grads at Harvard Law Commencement

Mindy Kaling and Preet Bharara deliver unforgettable and out of the ordinary Harvard Law Commencement speeches

Typically, law school commencements are boring and so are the speakers. But, Mindy Kaling and Preet Bharara turned that reputation around at Harvard Law School Commencement last week where they rocked the stage with humor and wisdom.

Kaling, the comedian who stars on the TV show “The Mindy Project” and was a cast member on “The Office” before that, spiced up her speech with humor and many say she stole the show. Talking about future career prospects for Harvard Law graduates, she said, “You will help a cable company acquire a telecom company. You will defend BP from birds. You will spend hours arguing that the well water was contaminated before the fracking occurred. One of you will sort out the details of my prenup, a dozen of you will help with my acrimonious divorce, and one of you will fall in love in the process—I’m talking to you, Noah Feldman!”

And, on how much of a catch Harvard Law grads are in the dating pool, Kaling said, “From where I stand, from an outside perspective, here’s the truth – you are all nerds … you are the nerds who are going to make serious bank. Which is why I’m here today, to marry the best-looking one of you.”

Kaling also touched on the moral alignment of Harvard Law grads. “People are going to listen to what you say now, whether you’re good or evil…Some of you are evil. That’s just the odds,” she said.

She also joked that she knows law because she sues everyone. Her speech wasn't all jokes, though. She also mentioned her parents' immigration to the U.S., and encouraged grads to be the kind of people who give advice to celebrities, not the other way around.

But, Kaling’s commencement speech wasn’t the only entertaining one delivered at Harvard Law School— or even the best one, according to some attendees. That speaker was Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Most Holy Southern District of New York and one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World as well as one of ATL’s finalists for lawyer of the year.

In his speech, he shared a story about how a few months ago, his dad called when he saw the announcement about the Harvard Class Day program and told Bharara that he would come up for it.  But, Bharara told his dad not to drive all the way up from New Jersey having just had knee surgery.

Bharara continued, “And so my Dad gets all serious and says to me: ‘Preet, how could we NOT come? And miss a once-in-lifetime chance — once in LIFETIME chance — to see the Mindy Kaling?’”

But, that wasn’t the only funny section of Bharara’s remarks. He went on, “Now don’t get me wrong. I love the Mindy Kaling. But I can’t help but feel like Harvard was a bit worried — can Bharara carry the whole program? And, obviously, it determined: No. So, you know, I’m a little hurt.”

A good commencement speaker should do his research and tailor his remarks to the audience; if the speech could have been delivered anywhere, it displays laziness. Luckily, Bharara attended Harvard College, so coming up with inside jokes wasn’t hard for him:

“I have had an unexpectedly productive trip so far. I arrived last evening, stopped by the Business School, dropped off some subpoenas, arrested a couple of guys for insider trading, and finished off the night sipping a scorpion bowl at the Kong,” he continued.

But, Bharara’s speech wasn’t just jokes, but also offered sincere advice to the graduating class about how to be happy lawyers and good lawyers. Bharara advised the grads:

“That is where your focus should be always — being the guy who does his job. Whether you are an associate, a law clerk, an assistant DA, a public defender, or anything else. Nothing else matters but doing your job and doing it well. Every day. Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s tedious. Even when it’s dull. Even when the work seems small and beneath your brand-name schooling and God-given talent. It means being the guy who does his job, even when no one is looking and no one will know the good ideas came from you. If you do that, not only the next job, but your career, will take care of itself.”

Enjoy the videos of the two speeches!

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Contributing Author

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Amanda Ciccatelli

Amanda G. Ciccatelli is a Contributing Writer for InsideCounsel, where she covers the patent litigation space. Amanda earned a B.A. in Communications and Journalism from...

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