Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

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seagan823
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Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby seagan823 » Fri Mar 29, 2013 9:20 am

Hi TLS community,

I am a 0L studying for the October LSAT hoping to attend a non-HYS t-14 in the Northeast. After reading post after post in forum after forum, I've noticed many people on TLS suggest not even going to law school if you have to pay sticker anywhere other that HYS. They cite LST employment statistics, showing that Columbia places ONLY about 70% into big law or federal clerkships or G-town placing only 38% into those areas. Obviously there is a big difference in the employment picture at these schools, but people talk about that 70% or 38% as if they are drawn from a hat, suggesting that time and effort in law school have little to do with succeeding.

The argument against taking a big financial risk to go to law school (and by big I mean lower T-14 at sticker) seems to be that law school is so different from what you have done before, you have no idea if you will succeed and there is little you can do to bring your grades above median. But for a website with the attitude that everyone can hit a 170 with hard work, it is strange that when it comes to actually attending law school few suggest that where you place in your class has anything to do with hard work. I know, I know, someone is going to suggest I think I am a special snowflake, but I understand the risks of going too far outside the t-14. I can clearly see the risks of a top 50. I just don't see why law school is painted as a random, completely non-meritocratic system.

I have read a lot of the advice on succeeding in law school here, from those who suggest studying non-stop everyday, briefing every case and going to every office hour, to those who suggest briefing no cases and using E&Es and hornbooks for everything. I have read about the importance of issue spotting, applying law to fact, outlining clearly and concisely and completing practice exams before the test. I have read about the books I should read to prep before law school. It seems that if you look for it there are many resources to draw on to help you succeed.

I understand that the case study, socratic method is challenging and that law school exams are unlike any I have taken before. I understand that if I go to a t-14 most everyone there will be bright and most everyone will work pretty hard. There will be a few geniuses who don't work hard and land in the top 5%. Some people will work harder than most everyone and still fall below median. But for the vast majority of people, does effort really have little to do with it? Does studying hard, going to office hours, efficiently using your resources and practicing with old exams really yield nothing but middle of the pack grades? Should I really just decide not to be a lawyer if I don't get a scholarship at NYU?

-seagan823

pastapplicant
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby pastapplicant » Fri Mar 29, 2013 9:26 am

From my experience it is not always the smartest people who get the best grades in law school. It is about knowing how to write exams and to be able to verbalize what you know. A lot of people in my class at NYU are clearly smarter than me and know a lot more, but knowing more does not equate to success on exams if everybody only has 3 hours to write.

In my view, there are only a handful of students who clearly are on another level who consistently ace the exams. The rest of us all go to class, takes notes, study, and the only way to separate yourself is to learn how to take exams and write the way your professor wants you to.

RodneyRuxin
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby RodneyRuxin » Fri Mar 29, 2013 9:30 am

You never know when some batshit crazy hypothetical is going to throw you off on an exam. You may go through an entire course of BLL just to have the professor ask policy questions that no practice test could have prepared you for. It may just be you are so stressed about the exam that you aren't thinking clearly and miss a main issue on an issue spotter. You may have a professor teach an entire quarter worth of theory and then test you on the BLL of intentional torts. Practice exams can help, but there are professors who like to "mix it up." And to top it all off, there's diminishing returns on the time you put in because it causes burnout, which (just like on the LSAT) can hinder performance.



People talk about risks because while there's a decent chance of getting median with hard work (my opinion), there's no guarantee of getting the top 25% + LR that's required to get BigLaw from certain schools.

This is why people are generally okay with HYSCCN; they place students past median.

Also inb4people troll you for asking a commonly debated question and showing no knowledge of the search function.

seagan823
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby seagan823 » Fri Mar 29, 2013 9:31 am

pastapplicant wrote:From my experience it is not always the smartest people who get the best grades in law school. It is about knowing how to write exams and to be able to verbalize what you know. A lot of people in my class at NYU are clearly smarter than me and know a lot more, but knowing more does not equate to success on exams if everybody only has 3 hours to write.

In my view, there are only a handful of students who clearly are on another level who consistently ace the exams. The rest of us all go to class, takes notes, study, and the only way to separate yourself is to learn how to take exams and write the way your professor wants you to.


From what I have read so far from other sources what you wrote makes a lot of sense. Why do you think it is that those who may know more than you don't put as much effort into figuring out how to do well on an exam? Since every grade in law school is an exam grade, why don't most people focus their effort exclusively on preparing to do well on it?

seagan823
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby seagan823 » Fri Mar 29, 2013 9:41 am

RodneyRuxin wrote:You never know when some batshit crazy hypothetical is going to throw you off on an exam. You may go through an entire course of BLL just to have the professor ask policy questions that no practice test could have prepared you for. It may just be you are so stressed about the exam that you aren't thinking clearly and miss a main issue on an issue spotter. You may have a professor teach an entire quarter worth of theory and then test you on the BLL of intentional torts. Practice exams can help, but there are professors who like to "mix it up." And to top it all off, there's diminishing returns on the time you put in because it causes burnout, which (just like on the LSAT) can hinder performance.



People talk about risks because while there's a decent chance of getting median with hard work (my opinion), there's no guarantee of getting the top 25% + LR that's required to get BigLaw from certain schools.

This is why people are generally okay with HYSCCN; they place students past median.

Also inb4people troll you for asking a commonly debated question and showing no knowledge of the search function.



Thanks for the insight. How often does that happen on an exam? In your experience, how often have you gotten to an exam and felt like there was no way to prepare for a hypothetical.

And this is TLS. Someone is always going to troll, someone is always going to yell for not using the search function. I just wanted to be able to phrase my question in a way that would yield the responses most helpful to me. I appreciate your help.

GertrudePerkins
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby GertrudePerkins » Fri Mar 29, 2013 2:53 pm

The problem isn't that law school exam performance is random. In my experience it's not -- people who do well tend to do well consistently. The problem is that it's hard to know going in whether you'll be one of those people who does well. Obviously studying hard will help, but some people consistently study hard and consistently wind up around median.

fallingup
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby fallingup » Fri Mar 29, 2013 3:44 pm

^Exactly. So then what?

andythefir
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby andythefir » Fri Mar 29, 2013 4:00 pm

To address your question directly: the heart of the problem is that most professors in most schools hide the ball the entire semester. People burn out on things that don't matter (the Socratic method is a powerful teaching tool but is often done badly and focuses on the parts of the cases that don't matter at all for the final). The biggest mistakes I see are that people think class + outlining + practice tests at the very end=preparing when that's only half the battle. Is it true that the best students understand class and outline? Absolutely. But the best students also know to look at the final product the professor is looking for and frame their semesters around that. They also do the CALI lessons, E&E, Lexis Q&A. Applying the law is categorically different from learning it and there are only so many pressure points within a given area of the law so apply it in every context you can get your hands on.

That being said, professors are employed to research, not to teach well or be fair. You could have a superstar researcher throw you the complete curveball that no one could possibly have seen coming. Here is where the curve actually helps you (no one knew it was coming), but legal employers are also willing to overlook an outlier grade because they know this happens.

I know the #1 student in my class and he's a genius, no question. Most of the law review is also really, really smart. But lots of people are just as smart and didn't focus on the exam from day 1. Working hard and being smart are important pieces, but strategy is just as important.

GertrudePerkins
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby GertrudePerkins » Fri Mar 29, 2013 6:07 pm

fallingup wrote:^Exactly. So then what?
I'm confused about whether this question is just rhetorical or whether you're looking for further elaboration. If it's the latter, I'm afraid I don't have much. Some people just have a better knack for the type of analysis and writing that cause one to excel in law school than do others. Effort is important, I just don't think it's a guarantee of all that much.

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scifiguy
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby scifiguy » Sat Mar 30, 2013 2:42 am

Law school still feels somewhat like a gamble to me, but I thought I'd still ask...

Would doing very well on the LSAT without too much strain in preparation be a good indicator that a person has a knack for law school thinking and exams?

And, oncvsersely, would having to strain to learn the LSAT be a sign that a person may not do well anbd/or doesn't have a knack for law school?

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Lacepiece23
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby Lacepiece23 » Sat Mar 30, 2013 1:46 pm

scifiguy wrote:Law school still feels somewhat like a gamble to me, but I thought I'd still ask...

Would doing very well on the LSAT without too much strain in preparation be a good indicator that a person has a knack for law school thinking and exams?

And, oncvsersely, would having to strain to learn the LSAT be a sign that a person may not do well anbd/or doesn't have a knack for law school?


who knows I'm at the complete bottom of the lsat range at my school like below bottom 25% tried hard on the lsat and and above top 25% in my class right now. I honestly think that typing speed has more to do with grade outcomes then the lsat. Of course I'm biased tho.

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Skye
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby Skye » Sat Mar 30, 2013 2:21 pm

From what I have skimmed in this thread the responses are mostly accurate. At best there will be that one exam that totally blindsides you, the good news is that is blindsides everyone else too. The worst advice ever on TLS is suggesting that you meet with the prof for an after the exam walkthrough, not happening.

Wish I could compare T-14 to tier 2 or 3 to see if there is some genius competitive level at T-14 that does not exist at lesser ranked schools. I will concur with the above responses that the cohorts around you are impressive (in my case, making me miss LR by 3 seats).

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scifiguy
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby scifiguy » Sat Mar 30, 2013 2:57 pm

Skye wrote:From what I have skimmed in this thread the responses are mostly accurate. At best there will be that one exam that totally blindsides you, the good news is that is blindsides everyone else too. The worst advice ever on TLS is suggesting that you meet with the prof for an after the exam walkthrough, not happening.

Wish I could compare T-14 to tier 2 or 3 to see if there is some genius competitive level at T-14 that does not exist at lesser ranked schools. I will concur with the above responses that the cohorts around you are impressive (in my case, making me miss LR by 3 seats).



Why wouldn't a professor meet with you during office hours to discuss law school work? :( I realize if everyone asked, then that'd be a lot of people! But if I'm paying $100K or so to study law, then wouldn't it be reasonable to be allowed to talk to teh professor about my exam? ...Don't Ph.D. students, for example, meet with their advisors regularly to discuss their academic progress? Is there no mentoring in law school either? Just too big of a class for it?

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bk1
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby bk1 » Sat Mar 30, 2013 3:00 pm

Skye wrote:The worst advice ever on TLS is suggesting that you meet with the prof for an after the exam walkthrough, not happening.

wut

While I have skepticism of how helpful exam post mortems with professors are, I cannot think of a single one of my profs who would refuse to go over my exam with me.

shock259
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby shock259 » Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:01 pm

Skye wrote:From what I have skimmed in this thread the responses are mostly accurate. At best there will be that one exam that totally blindsides you, the good news is that is blindsides everyone else too. The worst advice ever on TLS is suggesting that you meet with the prof for an after the exam walkthrough, not happening.

Wish I could compare T-14 to tier 2 or 3 to see if there is some genius competitive level at T-14 that does not exist at lesser ranked schools. I will concur with the above responses that the cohorts around you are impressive (in my case, making me miss LR by 3 seats).


Did my first year at a school in the 40s, transferred to CLS. I dropped about ~10-15% in class rank at my new school. And I studied SUBSTANTIALLY less. So based on my experiences, there is not an overwhelming difference in the caliber of students at a T14.

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scifiguy
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby scifiguy » Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:13 pm

shock259 wrote:Did my first year at a school in the 40s, transferred to CLS. I dropped about ~10-15% in class rank at my new school. And I studied SUBSTANTIALLY less. So based on my experiences, there is not an overwhelming difference in the caliber of students at a T14.


But, shock, isn't 1L considered the most difficult year, whereas the 2nd and 3rd years are less so? Not sure if that factors in...?

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EvilClinton
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby EvilClinton » Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:19 pm

Grading is random inside the T14 (unless you don't study). You can put in 100 hours of study time and do all the right things and still end up at median in a class and sometimes you can barely study and get a top grade. When you are at a t14 everyone is around the same level of intelligence and 98% of you classmates will study in the exact same way you do for exams.

This shit is random so stop pretending like you understand how to game the system because you read some threads on TLS.
Last edited by EvilClinton on Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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kapital98
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby kapital98 » Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:21 pm

scifiguy wrote:
shock259 wrote:Did my first year at a school in the 40s, transferred to CLS. I dropped about ~10-15% in class rank at my new school. And I studied SUBSTANTIALLY less. So based on my experiences, there is not an overwhelming difference in the caliber of students at a T14.


But, shock, isn't 1L considered the most difficult year, whereas the 2nd and 3rd years are less so? Not sure if that factors in...?


No. It's harder and easier for everyone. With few exceptions, you are still all competing against each other. IMO, almost everyone takes it easier during 2L/3L.

I've had a similar experience to shock259 (t40-->T14). I haven't seen a significant difference in the caliber of students.

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kapital98
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby kapital98 » Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:22 pm

EvilClinton wrote:This is shit is random so stop pretending like you understand how to game the system because you read some threads on TLS.

westphillybandr
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby westphillybandr » Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:26 pm

Grading, at least in my classes, isn't random. None of the material I have come across is terribly difficult to grasp (maybe with the exception of some civil procedure material), there is just a lot of it.

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Sheffield
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby Sheffield » Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:32 pm

EvilClinton wrote:Grading is random inside the T14 (unless you don't study). You can put in 100 hours of study time and do all the right things and still end up at median in a class and sometimes you can barely study and get a top grade. When you are at a t14 everyone is around the same level of intelligence and 98% of you classmates will study in the exact same way you do for exams.

Yes, that’s the way it is. IMO I believe the curve is mainly the culprit…. 60 papers end up in a photo finish and half the papers get the short straw. I also agree that trying to meet with the professor after the exam is futile (unless a canned pep talk cheers you up).

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ph14
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby ph14 » Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:34 pm

Sheffield wrote:
EvilClinton wrote:Grading is random inside the T14 (unless you don't study). You can put in 100 hours of study time and do all the right things and still end up at median in a class and sometimes you can barely study and get a top grade. When you are at a t14 everyone is around the same level of intelligence and 98% of you classmates will study in the exact same way you do for exams.

Yes, that’s the way it is. IMO I believe the curve is mainly the culprit…. 60 papers end up in a photo finish and half the papers get the short straw. I also agree that trying to meet with the professor after the exam is futile (unless a canned pep talk cheers you up).


Grading isn't random. Not at all. Go read A exams versus B exams. There is a noticeable difference. You see some people do consistently well, win multiple book prizes or other GPA awards, etc. The "law school grading is random" is an erroneous perception.

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EvilClinton
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby EvilClinton » Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:37 pm

ph14 wrote:
Sheffield wrote:
EvilClinton wrote:Grading is random inside the T14 (unless you don't study). You can put in 100 hours of study time and do all the right things and still end up at median in a class and sometimes you can barely study and get a top grade. When you are at a t14 everyone is around the same level of intelligence and 98% of you classmates will study in the exact same way you do for exams.

Yes, that’s the way it is. IMO I believe the curve is mainly the culprit…. 60 papers end up in a photo finish and half the papers get the short straw. I also agree that trying to meet with the professor after the exam is futile (unless a canned pep talk cheers you up).


Grading isn't random. Not at all. Go read A exams versus B exams. There is a noticeable difference. You see some people do consistently well, win multiple book prizes or other GPA awards, etc. The "law school grading is random" is an erroneous perception.

I have read those exams and I disagree. I have even compared my exams to those of close friends when we got drastically different grades.

I am currently in the top 20% at my school and I can honestly say that my success has been much more driven by luck than preparation.

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ph14
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby ph14 » Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:39 pm

EvilClinton wrote:
ph14 wrote:
Sheffield wrote:
EvilClinton wrote:Grading is random inside the T14 (unless you don't study). You can put in 100 hours of study time and do all the right things and still end up at median in a class and sometimes you can barely study and get a top grade. When you are at a t14 everyone is around the same level of intelligence and 98% of you classmates will study in the exact same way you do for exams.

Yes, that’s the way it is. IMO I believe the curve is mainly the culprit…. 60 papers end up in a photo finish and half the papers get the short straw. I also agree that trying to meet with the professor after the exam is futile (unless a canned pep talk cheers you up).


Grading isn't random. Not at all. Go read A exams versus B exams. There is a noticeable difference. You see some people do consistently well, win multiple book prizes or other GPA awards, etc. The "law school grading is random" is an erroneous perception.

I have read those exams and I disagree. I have even compared my exams to those of close friends when we got drastically different grades.

I am currently in the top 20% at my school and I can honestly say that my success has been much more driven by luck than preparation.


Go pull some A and B exams and post them here, and let's compare them.

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mephistopheles
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Re: Is success in law school only about genius or luck?

Postby mephistopheles » Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:39 pm

law school is simple: the people who put in the work and are ready for class and go to the library do well.

this site is filled with bullshit about "it's not about going to the library" and "you can't really ever know until the grades come back" and they're just wrong.

i could have called the top 15% of my class a month and a half into 1L, and i would have been dead on. the people who do well are the people who are competent in class and go to the library more than just to kill time between classes. this site hates strivers so much, but i think that's because of the demonstrated difference in performance. it's not just working smart, it's working smart and hard.

yeah, the people who do well tend to be the intellectual heavyweights, but that shouldn't come as a surprise. i've said it before: good grades in ug only mean that you went to class. a solid majority of the people who come to ls aggrandize their capabilities and get crushed. be real with yourself coming in.




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