Friday, March 23, 2007

The Confidence Game

Law school can be a place where confidence goes to die.  A student comes into law school believing she can excel and finds herself struggling near the bottom of the class, not entirely certain what went wrong.  The effort was there; the time and energy were there; but the good grades were inexplicably out of reach.  After a couple of semesters, all she knows to do is to tough it out.  So she slogs on towards graduation, reminded every January and June that she is not what thought she was.

Ask her how she's doing, and she may pretend not to care about the disappointments.  Get her to be honest, and she'll just shrug because she is discouraged and has lost faith in herself.    

Even so, like most law students, she will hang in and graduate; and, like most law students, she'll maintain through it all a genuine desire to be a good lawyer, whatever her grades and whatever her rank. 

And here's the great thing: she will indeed be a good lawyer, even an excellent lawyer. But she doesn't know that now.  She knows about GPA's and class ranks and lucrative offers to the top ten percent. 

Eventually, she will learn that preparation wins the day in the real world of practice, not GPA's.  She will find that not all great lawyers were great law students.  It will dawn on her one day that, as a matter of simple mathematics, 90% of the lawyers out there did not graduate in the top 10% of the class. 

Of course, she can't see any of that now.  All she sees is the closed-in world of law school, the immediacy of another set of exams.  That isn't all bad, I suppose; she needs to focus on the task at hand.  But it couldn't hurt if we took a minute to help her see down the road a little, just so she knows that she still has every reason to be confident. (dbw)

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