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Turning First Year Law School Failures into Life Lessons Learned

In the 2011 book, “Failing Forward,” leadership and motivational coach, John C. Maxwell lays out a solid case for the necessity of failures to develop maturity and coping skills, and to eventually succeed in all areas of life.

While some first-year law students fail to take important lessons from their inevitable first-year problems, the truly successful know that failure is often the catalyst for something great or a chance to learn something important.

Important Lessons

As a law student, difficulties can feel like failure, yet in every legal career failure is an ever-present reality. You will not win every case. You will not always work with pleasant, ethical attorneys. When you start your classes you will meet the arrogant blowhard, the overconfident guy, and the brilliant student who makes you feel less than smart.

This is an ideal time to learn how to argue a point against any opponent. You can skip the petty debate tricks and get used to moving your point professionally to gain support. You will learn that debate tricks will not win you favor among your peers. Well-reasoned arguments win support, similar to what mediation lawyers must do for couples during a divorce proceeding.

You can also begin to understand how you come across to other people, and how to more effectively present yourself. For instance, you will find out quickly that confidence is better than arrogance, and being assertive works far better than being aggressive.

When you are called on in class to apply a particular law to a real case, you will learn what areas of the law bring out your passion by your interest in arguing your point. Don’t call yourself a failure because real estate law puts you to sleep and you don’t argue it well. Learn what you need to know about it, and save your passion for the areas of law that excite you.

Also, making new friends can make your law school experience vastly more pleasurable. As a first-year student you will learn that diversity among friends makes your life more interesting. If you are struggling, reach out to others who are struggling. You will learn that suffering in groups always beats suffering alone.

First-Year Law School Choices

A first-year law student who fails to effectively apply laws to reality when called upon can choose to better prepare for that type of class or choose to leave school, unable to handle public failure.

The student who understands the value of failure to eventual success will likely make a more positive choice. That is not to imply that staying in law school is the only positive choice. If you recognize that you are in law school because you or your parents think you should be there instead of wanting to be there, there is no shame in switching goals. That is not a failure, but a chance to listen to your gut and take another opportunity.

Whether you finish law school and become an attorney, or you opt to change your focus, keep in mind that life lessons wait for you at every turn, especially when things don’t turn out the way you want.

Don’t plan for failure, but plan for turning failures into positive lessons that can propel you into the life and career you want.

About the Author

Bradley Barks is a law researcher and published blog author. He enjoys informing on a variety of legal topics.

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