Friday, February 15, 2013

Three ways to make a bad impression on your law professor

It's that time of year when law students approach their profs for letters of recommendation for summer internships (the employers who recruit through fall OCI typically don't ask for letters of recommendation; they only want to know class rank and whether you're on law review).  According to the Lawyerist blog, there are three things that will make it less likely your prof will want to write that letter or otherwise recommend you for the job. I'll add that the list is one that I wholeheartedly agree with.

Want to Impress Your Law School Professor? Don’t Do This.

As an adjunct instructor at my law school, I have the privilege of imparting practical advice to law students. Many of my students heed my advice on how to succeed in law school (and beyond).

On the flip side, I also witness behavior that leaves me less than impressed.

Here are three ways to create a bad impression with a law school professor.

Obsess over grades

Wanting to get good grades is a good thing. Obsessing over it to your professor or instructor is not. Like every other lawyer, I went to law school. I was immersed in the ultra-competitive bubble where grades are the beginning and end of the universe.

Even then, however, I understood that getting good grades is just part of law school success. I even pushed myself to work during law school (gasp!) to acquire practical skills.

In hindsight, I wish I had taken more skills-based classes. In the ones I did take, I was focused on the exercises and learning from them—because those were the building blocks of actual lawyering skills. In other words: I focused on my mistakes and correcting them. I’m sure I thought about grades, but I rarely asked “so, what grade did I get on that assignment?”

There’s nothing wrong about asking for feedback. That is completely distinct and different from asking about your grade(s). In my humble opinion, asking “what grade did I get” is the equivalent of going to an interview and asking “so, did I get the job?”

Here’s a little tip: students who put forth a strong effort on a regular basis and actively engage to improve their legal skills will usually end up ok in the grade department. Most importantly, they will end up light years ahead in the skills department.

Putting forth less than 100% effort

For practical skill classes, effort is critical. Throwing yourself into a simulation at 100% and hitting some bumps in the road is not only desirable—it is expected. Simulations are not designed to make law students cry, but they are designed to make them learn. That usually means unpredictable roadblocks.

It’s impressive to see law students recognize roadblocks and step to the challenge. It’s incredibly impressive to see students reflect on it afterwards and say: “I didn’t handle that as well as I wanted to, but now I know what to look for/how to handle it next time.” News flash: that’s what happens in the world of lawyering.

It’s not impressive to see a student throw in the towel. Even worse: complain about how the roadblock was unfair because they were not prepared for it. Again: random explosions and unpredictably are common in the practice of law. Complaining is never a solution to those situations.

Don’t listen/don’t pay attention/feign interest

It’s ok to screw up when you encounter a tough situation in law school (see above). It’s a bad idea to do something that was discussed as “please, please, don’t do this: ______” and then immediately do it during the next class or exercise. Unless you think it’s impressive to demonstrate that you were not paying attention. I’m not talking about something tricky, I’m talking about something basic, simple, and intuitive.

Continue reading here.


| Permalink


Post a comment