Wednesday, December 5, 2018
A colleague came by my office yesterday to tell me about a conference he had just held with one of his students. "S/he doesn't have any natural ability for law," this professor remarked of the student, "but s/he makes up for it in attitude and work ethic." We agreed that we both held the student in high regard.
When I think about the current and former law students I most admire, the tenacious ones rise to the top of the list:
- the student, once on academic warning, who now teaches in law school;
- the academically dismissed students who successfully tackled law school the second time around;
- those students, once set back by illness, domestic violence, or other life circumstances that might derail most people, who are now respected members of the bar.
Tenacious law students keep their long-term goals in mind. They swallow their pride and ask "stupid" questions so they can learn, often to the great relief of their classmates who were too timid to ask themselves. They experiment with different learning techniques to find what works for them. They are willing to take the time to do what it takes for them to learn, whether it is writing outlines out in longhand, or enlisting the help of their teenager to quiz them with flashcards, or working over the same practice problem numerous times until they can produce a well-written analysis. They have the humility to listen deeply to peers, professors, and any sources of wisdom. If they feel they bombed an exam, they analyze what went badly to learn from the experience, then they set aside their disappointment to focus on the next task. They seek feedback, even when it is painful, so they can progress.
Tenacity, then, can be summed up as work ethic + self-reflection + long-term goal-orientation. By itself, tenacity will not always result in top grades, but it will result in solid achievement and a first-rate reputation. Tenacious students become the lawyers we refer clients to -- and becoming a great lawyer is the ultimate point of all the work in law school and the bar exam. (Nancy Luebbert)