Friday, October 16, 2009

Why do college athletes do well in the legal profession?

A study by Kerma Partners and Redwood, a unit of LexisNexis, on the "stuff" that causes some associates to thrive in the legal profession can tell us a lot about the skills law schools and law firms actually value in new attorneys. Law school grades and law school rank matter less than some less-intuitive measures, like participation in college athletics. The results of this study were less surprising to me, because my late fiance, and law school classmate, was a college athlete who thrived in law school and during his brief experience in a large corporate law firm, as did many of his friends.  While the study specifically identifies the team work and leadership skills that are developed as a college athlete, there are a number of other skills honed in high-stakes athletics that translate to success in law firm life.

1) Law school rank-order, or "curved" grading is less jarring when you (or your team) are used to being ranked.

2) High-stakes competition is not new to college athletes, and prepares students for the highly competitive law school environment.

3) Practice only makes perfect when the practice is disciplined, relevant to critical skills, and there is an adequate foundation of basic preparedness. Time-on-task matters more to success than overall practice hours.

4) College athletes are accustomed to performance evaluations that can be very critical, and take the suggestions as useful input, not an evaluation of their worth as a human being.

5) Many college athletes have been in competition with people who cheat, cut corners, and behave unethically, but they do not use it as a litmus test of the sport.  When a college athlete finds out a peer has cut corners or cheated on a test or assignment, they are less likely to blame the school, the profession, and let the experience taint their entire career.

6) Most college athletes have to be very disciplined with their study time, because most are not aided by tutors and endless hours to complete assignments. That discipline carries over into law school study time and career management. 

7) Team sports are excellent practice for study groups in law school. You need to rely on each other to be prepared and each member must carry their own weight.  Everyone needs to be prepared before they practice as a team.

I am extrapolating on the study, and many of these observations are based on what I saw first-hand as a law student as an ASPer.  Not all college athletes thrive in law school, but finding the common skills that lead to success in both fields helps us direct all law students. (RCF)

http://www.abajournal.com/news/school_rank_and_gpa_arent_the_best_predictors_of_biglaw_success/

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2009/10/why-do-college-athletes-do-well-in-the-legal-profession-.html

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