Students from all sorts of backgrounds with all sorts of different skills can excel in law school and go on to be brilliant lawyers. But despite the variety of experiences and the array of abilities students bring to law school, many of the best law students share a similar set of qualities. If you’re a future or current law student, you should consider if these qualities describe you. If you recognized these traits in yourself, great! You should foster them throughout law school and your legal career. If you don’t recognize these qualities in yourself, don’t worry! You can definitely acquire these traits with a little hard work.
Successful law students enjoy the challenge of learning new things.
Learning anything new can be difficult and demanding. In law school, where you have to learn masses of black letter law through case briefing, the Socratic method, and very little feedback, learning can be downright frustrating at times. But law school is meant to be challenging. It’s meant to push you out of your comfort zone and get you to think about issues in new ways. Rather than getting discouraged or frustrated, the best law students will embrace the law school atmosphere and even enjoy the challenge of learning the law and mastering new skills. Lawyers are constantly having to learn about new topics and developments to meet their clients’ needs, so an ability to take on, or even enjoy, the challenge of learning new things is essential to success.
Successful law students are dedicated.
Dedication means more than just being passionate about what you’re doing. Dedication also means that you’re fully committed and willing to do everything that needs to be done. There will certainly be times in law school, and in your legal career, where you will be involved in things that are exciting, fulfilling, or interesting. But to get to those exciting, fulfilling, interesting moments, you often have to do work that can be tedious, annoying, or boring. Great law students are willing to do things they don’t always enjoy because they are dedicated to their studies and they know that completing the boring work (diligently) is often a prerequisite to later success.
Successful law students have the ability to work under pressure.
It’s no secret that law school, and particularly the final exam period, can be intense. You’re generally taking multiple exams, in a two-week period, that require you to memorize, process, and analyze an immense amount of information under very tight time constraints. Add in the fact that most law schools grade on a curve, and you’re destined to feel stressed! The best law students feel just as anxious about final exams as anyone out there, but they don’t let the pressure hinder their ability to prepare or distract them during the actual exam. Finding some healthy ways to cope with stress and being able to perform well under pressure will serve you well in law school and in your future legal career.
Successful law students persevere.
At one point or another, every law student is going to experience disappointment. It may be a bad grade, a rejected job application, or a period of struggle with the material. But great law students won’t let any perceived failures stop them from trying again. Instead, they acknowledge that things didn’t go well, identify the cause of the failure, and find ways to correct the problem or at least work around it. Much like being a practicing attorney, law school will have its ups and downs, but you have to push through the difficult moments by focusing on your long-term goals rather than any short term struggles. Self-belief and the ability to persevere are underrated values, but they are often essential to long-term success.
Successful law students are creative.
In a profession whose main function is basically to read staid legal cases and draft formal briefs, you may not expect creativity to be valued. But creativity and ingenuity can be a real asset to a law student trying to stand out in a competitive job market (not to mention a new lawyer trying to make her mark). Adherence to precedent may be required in certain circumstances, but great law students are also curious enough to explore novel legal arguments and brave enough to try creative solutions to difficult problems. Embrace your creativity and ingenuity, because they will serve you well in responding to your future clients’ needs.
As a law student, you should embrace your own unique strengths and experiences, but you should also try to acquire or foster some of these qualities throughout your legal education. Possessing these qualities won’t just help you be a great law student, they will also help you be a great lawyer.
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