Of course, it never happened. But my point is that many law students tend to be high achievers. And perhaps a bit paranoid. It simply comes with the territory. We are always looking over our shoulder and ahead to the next treacherous curve, at the same time. It's what makes us good at what we do. We worry, so that our clients don't have to. We anticipate unintended consequences. We plan for the worst.
As I think back about some of the misconceptions I had about law school, I realize now that law students who have a sober view of the process will probably do better than those who don't. This is because, the mature law student can focus on the real "money" activities- those that deliver the most bang for the buck, grade-wise. And no matter what anyone tells you, make no mistake about it, grades are critically important in law school. Grades are curved among a bunch of the best and brightest and most competitive students around. And grades determine who gets jobs.
So, here are some of these misconceptions, or "law school mythology" as I like to call them:
1. "We're All in This Together." This attitude, although true on one level, is dangerously misleading on another. Some students tend to huddle together, in study groups and social cliques, in the hopes that no one can drown, if they all simply hang on to each other. And having a social network in law school can be comforting. But, here's the problem with this myth. If you hang with the pack and do the same things as the pack, then your grade will be a result of the pack's actions. And as I said, law school grades are rendered on a curve. This means that of the 10 people in your group, one or two might get "A's", two or three will get "B's" and the rest will get "C's" or lower. In other words, although you may think of your group as compadres, some will succeed and others won't. The curve takes very close grades and forcibly distinguishes among them. Someone in your group will get an "A". And it might as well be you. The trick is to figure out methods and a process to make it happen.
2. "Professors Know Everything." Well, you might not absolutely buy into this myth, especially if you are a young, cynical rebel. But even if you are, you may mistakenly believe that your professor is a subject-matter expert. In fairness, she might be. But then again, she might not be. It's just that someone had to teach the Partnership Tax course. So, you should certainly listen to your professors. And learn from them. But make sure that you have a basic, and broader understanding of the material. You do this through outside reading- treatises, hornbooks, whatever. You need to understand the general picture of the course but also enough detail to spot issues and analyze them.
3. "Legal Recruiters Pick the Best Candidates." I've just told you that grades are curved. I've also told you that grades mean everything to prospective employers. Are you starting to get the picture? There are plenty of "A" students who can't lawyer their way out of a wet paper bag. Granted, there are also "A" students who are geniuses, destined for the Supreme Court. But, what about the students who simply had a bad break- a bad professor, a bad exam, or simply that they were a little slow out of the starter blocks that first year. These students may ultimately become brilliant lawyers. But they have a very hard time finding a job because of the foregoing. It's not fair. But it is the way it is. And your strategy from the day you start law school, if not before, is to do everything you can to avoid unfair circumstances. As they say, "you make your own luck." If you are thinking about law school, or planning to enter in the near future, now is the time to begin planning your law school strategy.
4. "Good Lawyers Are Born and Not Made." You see symptoms of this every semester, just after grades come out. Students who killed themselves on studies, end up with "B's". They see others who worked half as hard as they did, and yet pulled "A's". They get depressed and dejected. They begin to believe that they just weren't born smart enough. But as Edison said, "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." There are countless lawyers who graduated in the middle of their class, or worse, and have won some of the biggest cases in history. Law school is about excellent performance over a very short period of time. Law practice is about excellence over a sustained period of time. Simply, you can make up for that self-perceived lack of genius by outworking the other guy.
If you are a law student or a recent law graduate, I would love to hear about your own law school myths. I know that mine have just scratched the surface.
Finally, if you are in law school, stay the course. Try not to get discouraged. Don't give up. It will be well worth it someday. I wish you much success in your legal career.