In talking with some of our students the other day, I realized some robust patterns between who was doing well and why. There are several key traits and attitudes that I have inevitably seen in those students who perform at the highest levels and succeed the most with their grades. And guess, what, it doesn’t have much to do with “who is smarter” or “who puts in the most study hours.”
Interestingly, the attributes of the top students correlated strongly with what we have come to understand as “the growth mindset.” If you haven’t heard of the growth mindset yet, it’s definitely something worth checking out before you go to law school, and, as we at the Law School Toolbox have said before, it’s definitely the right mindset for law school!
There are several distinctions between the growth mindset and an otherwise more “fixed” way of thinking. Many of these have to do with how we view our own skills, how we value effort, and how we respond to challenges, setbacks and feedback.
The best part of the growth mindset is that anyone can develop it at any time. You aren’t born with one mindset or the other. You can change from one category to another, and you can learn to adapt depending on the situation.
A lot of people will tell you that law school teaches you how to “think like a lawyer,” which is true. But what about thinking like a successful law student? Here are some examples of law student behavior that I’ve seen yield the very best and very worst results.
Do You Have the Mindset of a Successful Law Student?
|“You’re either smart or you’re not.”
|“You can succeed if you work hard enough.”
|“If I don’t get it now, I probably never will.”
|“If at first you don’t succeed, try again until you do.”
|“I guess I’m just not an analytical person.”
|“I can train my brain to think analytically.”
|“If you have to try that hard, you’re probably not smart enough.”
|“Perseverance is the best way to get the best results.”
|“If I were the right kind of person for law school, then law school would be easy for me.”
|“If I weren’t the kind of person for law school, I wouldn’t have been accepted in the first place. I belong here, and I can succeed.”
|“I hate and avoid doing things I’m bad at.”
|“I relish a good challenge.”
|“I don’t like how challenges point out my weaknesses.”
|“If a challenge points out my weaknesses, it’s a great way to tell where I need to improve.”
|“If I get a bad grade, it’s probably because of some fundamental failure on my part.”
|“If I get a bad grade, it’s probably because I misunderstood or misapplied the material or didn’t fully understand what was required of me.”
|“I get really discouraged when I don’t do well.”
|“Setbacks are an opportunity to get stronger.”
|“I fixate on my mistakes, which makes it harder to focus.”
|“Every new assignment is a chance to succeed.”
|“I avoid reviewing my exams that earned bad grades.”
|“The first step in getting better is understanding and reviewing how and where I went wrong.”
|“Negative feedback on my work makes me defensive.”
|“Negative feedback means I have a lot of work to do but also a lot of room to improve.”
|“When my professor or tutor points out my weaknesses, I take it very personally.”
|“When my professor or tutor points out my weaknesses, it isn’t pleasant, but it helps me see where I need work.”
|“I skim feedback from my professor or tutor, but I find it difficult and demoralizing to review it in detail. I don’t like asking questions about negative feedback because it makes me feel inadequate.”
|“I review feedback from my professor or tutor in great detail and I ask questions about anything that is unclear so I can be sure to get it right next time.”
|“I put negative feedback in a drawer and forget about it.”
|“I painstakingly review negative feedback and reverse-engineer how I can get a better result next time.”
|LAW SCHOOL ASSIGNMENTS
|“I only do the assignments my professor or tutor assigns.”
|“I ask for extra assignments, especially in areas I don’t understand. I take it upon myself to figure out where I am weak and I ask for help and practice even more.”
|“I study topics I’m already comfortable with because it boosts my confidence.”
|“I focus on the topics that are the hardest for me because those are the areas I need to improve the most.”
|“I have “bad topics” that I don’t understand well and I just hope I never see them on the exam.”
|“I work even harder on my “bad topics” until they become “good topics” for me”
Any of these sound familiar?
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Other helpful pre-1L posts:
- Pre-1L Summer Checklist
- The People You Will Meet in Law School
- All The Supplies You Need to Start Law School Right
- How to Start Law School Right
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