A lot of newcomers to the world of law school write me for advice, and I definitely appreciate the feedback. These questions help me really reflect on my own law school experience, and it causes me to come up with some good advice for you from every angle.
One of the first questions that people ask me is what is the one thing that has made it so easy for me to stay at the top of my class. I’ll tell you without even charging you anything for the answer: it’s the fact that I set goals.
You have to understand that I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer, that I knew I was going to law school the way some girls know that they want to be married and start a family. I knew that I wanted to do it, and so I’ve never let anyone keep me from that goal.
However, I wasn’t stupid — I knew that “go to law school and do well” isn’t a very specific goal, and it’s certainly not one that I could track. So I started thinking bout all of the different things that I could do in order to really make sure that I stayed on track.
Setting goals in law school is absolutely critical. Why? Well, it’s the reason I say all the time: law school is a winner-takes-all system. If you don’t strive for the top, you won’t get it. And you won’t have a chance at the top legal jobs if you don’t work on getting the best all around grades possible in law school. It’s sad to think that grades and performance matter so much, but if you really can’t handle that — you need to find a new career track. Law school is only the beginning — everyone is competing with you through every stage of your law career. If you aren’t competing for the top spots in law school, then they’re competing for the partner track. It’s really all about being the best, and I thrive on that type of environment.
So if you do too, here are a few tips on setting goals:
First and foremost, you really don’t want to try to have Rome built in a day. Break down your goals into steps and you will prosper. This might mean thinking about each and every thing that you have to do from a value standpoint. “Is what I’m about to do valuable? Will it help me reach the greater goal I want to achieve?” If you can’t answer those questions in a meaningful way, then you really don’t need to do the activity.
Next, you will want to become ruthless with your time. I hate to be cruel, but law school really isn’t the time for heavy socialization. There’s a lot of work to be done, and you will need to make sure that socialization doesn’t take over your life. It’s far too tempting to think that you’re networking, but you might just be wasting time. There re ways to network effectively, but they don’t always mean going out to clubs and bars. You might want to wait until you’re sober to really schmooze properly.
Finally, you will need to pace yourself and notice when you’re actually progressing. You don’t want to just think that you won’t be able to get things done simply because you think that you aren’t moving forward. Take a moment and celebrate the little victories, and you’ll have enough energy to stick it out until the big victories come through. It’s really only a matter of time anyway before you get what you want, so don’t be afraid to dig down deep and reach for all of your law school goals!