“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein.
One of the biggest challenges for students considering law school is what to do with their future. “Should I go to law school?” “If I do go to law school, what kind of lawyer do I want to be?” Those legitimate questions are worth asking. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of lawyers, and it’s led to a much greater understanding of how to answer these questions.
People often have a tendency to perceive individual lawyers as “a good lawyer” or “a bad lawyer,” or somewhere in between. In fact, I’ve found the analysis is more complex, which actually is a very good thing for prospective law students. Let me explain with a few examples…
One of the best trial lawyers I have ever seen is not an analytical genius. The lawyer did not excel on the LSAT, went to a mediocre law school, and would not be the person I would go to for advice on standardized tests. But make no mistake about it, this lawyer is a genius. If I wanted assistance on how to make an argument that would resonate with a jury, how to connect with jurors, or anything that involved persuasion, there’s no one better.
I’ve worked with another lawyer who is literally an organizational genius. If there were a massive amount of information that needed to be digested, organized, analyzed and summarized, there isn’t a lawyer I know who could do it in a more intelligent, useful, and thoughtful way. But this same lawyer isn’t necessarily one who is at ease in front of a jury, or who excels in a courtroom. If I wanted advice on how to emotionally connect with a jury, I’d go to the lawyer in my first example.
Another lawyer I’ve worked with was a flat-out bad law student. Passing the bar and graduating law school were by no means a certainty. The lawyer struggled as a trial lawyer and also struggled with legal analysis. But this lawyer had vision, was a big-picture thinker, and had a particularly likable personality. Once this lawyer found the right opportunity, there was no stopping the success that followed.
These are just a few examples, but hopefully you get the point. What does all of that mean to you? It means to take some time throughout your working life – including now – to think about what types of things you are good at and what you like doing. It probably isn’t easy when you are in college and have limited work experience, and that’s ok. You will develop the skill more and more as you gain experience and greater exposure to different opportunities. But always be looking for ways to match your talent and passion to career opportunities. One nice thing about the field of law is that there are a wide variety of different types of lawyers, and the different job types typically call for different skills and talent.
Conclusion: if you’re a fish, don’t spend a lifetime trying to climb a tree. And if you’re a lion, don’t spend your life trying to swim. Albert Einstein was stupid. He also was a genius. In some respects, we all are. Fortunately, Einstein found a way to work in a field that utilized his genius side, and so should you (if you aren’t comfortable adding the word “genius” to your self-description, at least look for opportunities that are most likely to make you shine and feel some degree of passion).
Finding your “niche” doesn’t usually happen right away. One sometimes needs to pay one’s dues, explore different fields, and develop marketable skills. And luck can play a part too. But if you put yourself in positions to take advantage of opportunities and keep your eyes open, you may find that “dumb luck” becomes a virtual certainty over time!