SoxyPirate wrote:Great post Arrow. Here's a bit of a related question:
Conventional TLS wisdom (which is neither conventional, nor wise IMO) says that lower ranked (read: non-T14) schools can be extremely competitive because 100% of the students at T2's, for example, realize that they have to give the 4.0 effort to have shot at making money after school. It's insane to assume, or even dream of making top 10-15% at a T2, because EVERYBODY is shooting for top 10-15%
My understanding, however, from family members and friends who have been to law school, is that the effort from law students is largely similar to undergrad, i.e., you have your slackers, the middle-of-the-road kids, and then the folks that live in the library, study night and day, etc. The percentages might not be exactly the same (there are certainly more slackers in college than in law school), but the groups are there.
What's your opinion on the percentage of law school students that really give the "top 10%" effort? More specifically, is there a noticable difference between the effort of the top 10% and those that make top 30%, or can it mostly be attributed to "luck?"
Feel free to tweak the numbers to your liking if you must (e.g., "no difference in the 10% and 25% kids, but there's a big difference between top 25% and top 50%...)
First of all, I think you are right in that law school is more like undergrad. There are still slackers and epic gunners, as always. This spread is not surprising considering the range of LSAT/GPAs that a school takes.
In fact, at my school, I do not think that everyone is gunning for the top 10% (not at all). Many people have great connections already or realize that they are set for life. Others have public interest or government desires (or want to do IP), all of which are less GPA demanding. A few will probably have tons of money, so there are no financial risks. Some just do not realize just exactly how important 1L is. They hear about it but it really just does not sink in. The general mindset is that most of the students will get a job regardless, so it really is not that competitive.
In my section (I cannot speak for the other sections), I would say only about 2-3 people truly give in 10% work. When I say top 10% work, I mean really dedicating their entire lives to law school hardcore style work. Believe it or not, people outside of TLS believe that a 70k salary (which is about average/median for private practice) IS a good salary, so not everyone in law school is going on a big law or bust route.
There is some luck in law school, but you can take steps to MINIMIZE that luck. Sure, I think there is a noticeable difference between the top students (probably top 5-10%) and the top 25-30%. In fact, in my classes, a professor gives out about 5 "A"s per class and the same 2-3 people hog those A's in EVERY one of our classes. Depending on how your professor grades or how your school curves, you may get an A- or B+ every now and then. It is possible to consistently do well and to minimize your luck factors.
I think there is more luck going into the B+/B/B-/C+ range (which is like the mid 25-75 percentile probably). Here, your exam answers are less organized, your writing is less clear, and your analysis is well average. I can totally imagine professors not spotting your issues because it is buried in a paragraph, making it luck whether he really understands what you are talking about. Since the difference between a B+/B may be a few points on an exam (but results in a higher ranking difference, like top 20% to top 40%), the difference is less noticeable.
All this is really just my guess. I never looked at everyone's exams or figured out everyone's true intelligence. Seriously though, there is as much luck on law school exams as having an undergrad professor grade your final paper. However, the point remains that you can minimize luck. Is there a noticeable difference between someone who studies 4-6 hours a day and someone who studies 8-12?
Honestly though, keep telling yourself that everyone is gunning 110% for top grades so you can motivate yourself.
Chance favors the prepared mind. Luck is preparation meets opportunity. Luck is also a spectacular excuse for not doing as well as you hoped.