Between midterms and legal writing, lots of law students are starting to get feedback…which means lots of law students are feeling pretty bummed.
But here’s a hint: Don’t just focus on what you did wrong. Pay close attention to what you did RIGHT.
I don’t mean this in a Pollyanna-ish “You’re so awesome, ignore the haters” way. It’s actually quite practical.
The Goal: Do MORE of What You Did Right
For example, a student sent me her marked-up legal writing memo, with comments from her professor. She wasn’t happy with her grade, and was obsessing over every negative comment or piece of advice.
But at least half the memo had no marks at all! It was effectively perfect.
- The lesson this student took away was that she was terrible at legal writing, and needed to fundamentally change her approach (if she wasn’t too far gone to be hopeless).
- The lesson I took away was that she’d done some things very well, and had some things to work on.
Why is focusing on the positive effective? Because you already know how to do the things you did well, and it’s pretty easy just to do them more consistently!
Sure, it’s helpful to work on areas of weakness, too, but often these are simply places where you didn’t do all the things you’re already capable of doing.
For example, if you look at sections of a midterm or memo where there aren’t a lot of comments, chances are good you stated the issues clearly and analyzed both sides before drawing a conclusion. If you look at areas with negative feedback, you probably didn’t do one or more of these things.
- So you ARE capable of doing a complete legal analysis, you’re just not doing it 100% consistently (yet). That’s normal. It’s called learning.
The next time you get some law school feedback, instead of flipping out and focusing on what a failure you are, force yourself to closely examine what you did well. Maybe it’s truly nothing, but I doubt that’s the case!
Then do more of what you did well, and I think you’ll see a marked overall improvement.
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