Thursday, March 10, 2011

I'm Steve Nash and I approved this message

On my first day in law school, all the 1Ls were gathered in the moot court room and the assistant dean told us that some of us were going to fail.

Actually, she didn't say "fail."  (People in law school rarely fail.)  She said, "Get B's and Cs."  But to a group of people who had always "succeeded" (ie, gotten "As"), it was basically the same thing.

Law school takes a group of successful people and forces some of them to be average -- and by extension, below-average.  It's the mandatory grading curve that guarantees a few will get As, most will get Bs, some will get Cs. 

It sucks, but as the assistant dean pointed out, it's life.  The important thing to remember is that we were still the same people we were when we began law school -- smart, talented, successful, interesting people that had been chosen for admission for a reason.

Of course, I'm sure everyone in my class looked at the bell curve on the overhead projector and thought, "Well, that's fine, but I'm going to get As."

It's human nature that when you're good at something -- and you know you're good at it -- that you expect to be rewarded for it.  It's not a sense of entitlement, it's a sense of confidence.  Just like Steve Nash* knows he will almost certainly make his free throws, when you're good, you know you're good.

The problem inevitably comes when people who are good are put into a situation with a bunch of other people who are good and by definition, some (if not most...if not all) will fail.  The trick then, I suppose, is to imagine that you're Shaq--a terrible free thrower, sure, but still in the NBA and sleeping on piles of gold.

There are a lot of areas in my life where I will probably end up failing.

I'm a good writer.  I know I am because (like Steve Nash) I just know.  I know because other people--including objective people--have told me so.**  And I know I will most likely not get published.

That's the way life is.  There are people who make great girlfriends or boyfriends who won't get married just because the odds aren't good.  (I'm looking at you, Ted Moseby, because despite the title of your show, I'm starting to have my doubts.)  There are people I know from high school who are amazing athletes or actresses, but they aren't getting drafted or cast in movies.  But they're still the cat's pajamas.

It's not false modesty, it's factual.  I know there are a lot of hopeful people out there who think, "If I'm good and tenacious, some day it will work out!"  And that's great for them, but my lawyer brain can't handle all the logical gaps in that thinking.  Call it cynicism if you will, but at least it's happy cynicism. 

I went into law school with a group of smart people and I graduated with that group of smart people.  And some of the people who were at the bottom of our class are still some of the smartest, best lawyers I know.  But they still aren't going to be hired by Douchebag & A-hole, LLC*** because that is not how the law works.  The six-figure salary does not really happen for most lawyers.  (And in all honesty, is not entirely worth it, but that's a topic for another day.) 

But as the assistant dean law school told us once upon a time, that's life.  There are things that I am good at that I will never bring me success.  (This fact doesn't stop me from briefly shooting the assistant dean a hateful death glare, but I never said I was perfect.)

The thing is, though, that I don't do them for success, or even always because I love them.  (Any lawyers out there love reviewing emails for privilege?  Didn't think so.)  I do them because I'm good at them, and when you're good at something, that's what you want to do. 

When you find your sweet spot, you stick with it, even if you won't ever be Roger Federer.  (OK, I need to stop with these sports analogies.)  Make that, "At the end of the day, we're all characters in a Samuel Beckett play."  (Oooh, literary analogy!  Way to class it up, Blog Girl.) 

* Boo hiss, I know I should have thought of a Jazz player who consistently makes his free throws ... but I can't think of any off the top of my head, can you? 

Didn't think so. 

** I know this blog is not always proof of the good writing thing, but seriously. 

*** My firm was not Douchebag & A-hole, LLC.  I liked my firm even if I like my new job better.  I just don't want to name drop a real firm. 


  1. Well it looks like you took what a lot of us have heard in school (undergrad and beyond) and actually learned from it.
    One of my favorite professors always tells us that just because we've always gotten good grades doesn't mean he's going to give us good grades, and getting a B in his class means success, not failure. But then all of us nerdy English Majors get up in arms and say, dangit, we're awesome, we deserve As.
    We'll never learn.

  2. I am going to read this entire post when I have a few more minutes to myself, but until then, I wanted to let you know that I nominated you for an Awesome Blog Award. Check it out here:

    Should I point out the error on the actual "award" itself or let you find it yourself? So annoying! :-)