The Great Pretender

Leonardo DiCaprio holding up papers, pretending to be a lawyer

Credit: Andrew Cooper In the movie “Catch Me If You Can,” Leonardo DiCaprio plays Frank Abagnale, who posed as, among other things, a Harvard Law graduate.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Harvard Law School should be honored. For when Frank Abagnale decided to be a lawyer–in addition to an airline pilot, doctor and professor–he knew exactly which degree would open the door.

Abagnale, whose story is told in the Steven Spielberg movie “Catch Me If You Can,” was looking for some credibility when he applied for a job as a state assistant attorney general. So what better way to get noticed than to claim that you’re a Harvard Law graduate? “If I was going to have a law degree,” he wrote in his book, “I thought I might as well have one from a prestigious source.” It got him the job and nine months’ work, until the now famous con man, played in the movie by Leonardo DiCaprio, perpetrated his next scam. But justice was eventually served. His bogus Harvard Law degree helped open another door for him–to prison.