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The Conventional Law School Wisdom is Wrong

As I mentioned in my last blog post, most people that finished well behind me in my law school class worked a good deal harder than I did. My experience as a law student and as a teacher has led me to the opinion is that the reason most people end up in the middle is not primarily related to the amount of work that a person is willing to do. I think it is something else.

If you go to a law school orientation meeting at your school on how to be successful in law school, what are you told? The conventional wisdom about law school. This includes advice about reading your cases, briefing, outlining, and so on. And everyone that is in those workshops nods their heads and tries to implement that advice.

But consider this: if everyone is implementing the same conventions to succeed in law school, where is everyone going to end up? Where the conventions say they will: in the middle, along with everyone else.

The problem with taking the conventional advice route to success in law school is that to be successful—more successful than the huge middle students—you have to be unconventional. Right? By definition, excelling in law school beyond the norm means that you are not following the norms. You have to beat the norm.

Ultimately, the conventional wisdom serves one important purpose: to equip a person to survive law school. If you do what everyone else does, you are going to survive. And if that is your only goal, that is a fine tack to take.

Surviving law school isn’t good enough anymore, jobwise. You need a strategy that outstrips the curve; you need a better outcome than the norm. You need to be in the top 30% of your class when you graduate.  The techniques I describe in my blog and my book can have a very substantial impact on you getting into the top 30%, the top job-getting category of students. In fact, I would predict that if you are in this huge middle group and you use the techniques I teach, you will end up in this desirable group.

Let’s consider why that is.

What is likely to be the case is that for the most part, all the people in this middle group–virtually all of you reading this book–are going to be sitting in essentially the same place before exams begin. If you follow the conventional approach to law school, you will all know the same material. You will have studied the same notes, produced roughly the same outline and approached studying in the same way. And sorry about this: your raw brain power is all pretty much the same as well.

But here is one key insight: almost everyone follows the conventional wisdom. Reflect on the importance of this reality a minute. If it is true, in order to get into the money bracket of law students, you don’t have to end up in that top 10% group, or even the top 20% of the class. You don’t have to pull some rabbit out of a hat to turn yourself into someone you are not. All you need to do is get even a slight advantage over the group you are already in. If you have a slight advantage over the large middle group then you are going to end up on the right side of the curve in your class: the top 30%.

Do you hear this?  You don’t have to be any smarter than you are now, and you will not have to know any more than you will know prior to exams in order to end up where you want to be. All you have to do is identify a way—or two or three ways— to get a slight advantage over everyone else just like you.

Law School Ninja is a collection of tactics to get you these advantages.

I hate to be crass but I speak the truth: Job chasing is grade chasing, pure and simple. There are two crucial times when class rank is most firmly established in any law school class: (1) after Spring exams of the first year when all students are ranked for their first year performance; and (2) during the climbing and falling that occurs during the second year of law school.

The purpose of this book is to show you a number of techniques you can use to get a slight advantage over all the people in your class that are just like you in these two crucial time periods. Forget slight advantages, in many cases, you can gain a large advantage over your classmates.  It’s not that we don’t like our classmates, or that they are bad people. But when the time comes, these people are going to be competing with you for the job you want, and that is the brutal reality of the matter.

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