That simple conversation really does sum up the process of becoming a lawyer.
I certainly don't want to take anything away from anyone who has gone through this process. There is no question that law school is one of the most demanding programs, the bar exam is one of the most difficult tests, and the practice of law is one of the most challenging professions. And some of the lawyers I have encountered along the way are simply some of the smartest people I have ever met. I deal frequently with outside counsel (I am the general counsel of a corporation) and I am often amazed with their creativity and insight, and especially with their expertise in a particular field of law.
But there are different kinds of intelligence. I believe that just about everyone has brilliance. Maybe yours is rocket science. Maybe it's cooking. Or perhaps you can work Sudoku puzzles in record time. I used to think that in order to become a lawyer, you had to be brilliant. Starting with the percentile rankings of the LSAT, we are conditioned to rank ourselves in terms of performance against our peers. In law school, the grading curve can be brutal, forcing law professors to make marginal distinctions between "A" exams and "C" exams.
And intelligence, without action is pretty much worthless. Brilliant people who do not apply themselves can end up homeless. And less than brilliant students can make "A"s if they work hard enough.
The irony of law school is that hard work may or may not result in "A"s. Intelligence also does not ensure top grades. As I discuss in "Law School Labyrinth- A Guide to Making the Most of Your Legal Education" (Kaplan Publishing, 2009), success in law school certainly requires hard work. It also requires at least a certain degree of intelligence. But really successful students either intutively (or perhaps with some good guidance from Lawyer Mom or Dad) understand that law school simulates the practice of law. So the succeed, the student has to be able to solve legal problems in a lawyerly way- through cogent analysis, identifying and discussing all sides of the issue and law, and doing it in a clear and effective way.
But law school is only the beginning of the labyrinth. You must also obtain your license to practice law- from the character and fitness requirement, the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, and what will probably be the most demanding test you well ever take, the bar exam.
Which brings me to the point. If you are facing the LSAT and struggling with Logic Games, the following applies to you. If you are in your second semester following a mediocre performance in your first year of law school, the following applies to you. If you are facing what appears to be the Herculean task of the bar exam, it applies to you. And if you are a first year associate, intimidated by the thought of actually practicing law, listen up.
The study and practice of law are simply a labyrinth of sorts. They are a winding journey of opening and closing passages, full of intimidation and discouragement. But don't be discouraged. In this labyrinth, if you want to find the Minotaur, simply look in the mirror. You are your own worst enemy.
If you had a bad LSAT, you have two choices. You can either pick yourself up and go at it again, or you can give up on your dream of becoming a lawyer.
If you don't get into Dream Law School, you have two choices. You can go to Local U, or you can give up on your dream of becoming a lawyer.
If you just graduated and can't find a job, you have two choices. You can give up and go home, or you can keep sending out resumes, searching the net, and making calls to law firms.
Wherever you are in your journey through the Labyrinth, you have a choice. You can keep pushing or give up. But I am here to tell you that if you want to become a lawyer, you can. A door closes, two windows open. Climb through one. But if you want to become a lawyer badly enough, you will. You just will.
Best wishes in your legal career.