Friday, March 24, 2006
I once had a student whose husband was a professional baseball player; and when, during her first year of law school, she complained about how frustrated she was with the results of her hard work, he responded with what I think is one of the best analogies I have ever heard regarding the law school experience.
He said, "When I played high school baseball, in that league I was it. When I played college ball, in that league I was still it. When I made the pros, everyone had always been it; suddenly, I wasn't it anymore." Then he told her, "You've just found out you're in the majors."
I like that analogy because I think it holds up pretty well. Those who make it into law school tend to have been it everywhere else, and what served them well before no longer sets them apart from the crowd. But there is also an important corollary: in the highest levels of competition, minor adjustments in technique can have startling impacts on performance.
For example, when George Brett first began playing for the Kansas City Royals in the '70's, he was no hitting phenom. He was hitting around .200 and was worried about staying in the majors. Charlie Lau, Brett's batting coach, convinced him to change his hitting style, to shift his weight and improve his extension. Brett won his first batting crown two years later and finished his career having won batting crowns in each of three decades, something no one had ever done before. He's in the Hall of Fame.
My students sometimes think it sounds crazy that something as insignificant as changing a studying technique here or there could actually turn an average law student into a pacesetter. I think to myself, yeah, and it sounds crazy that changing a major leaguer's batting style can transform him from a .200 hitter into a hall of fame batter; but that's how it works when you're playing in the majors. (dbw)