It is no secret that law school exams generally consist of only one grade: the final exam. With the addition of a mandatory curve, it is also no secret that law school is ultimately a competition among peers. However, what most law students are completely unaware of is the fact that not everyone is actually on the same playing field. Although this article is primarily aimed at law students in the better law schools, it is a general important life lesson that can be extracted into general life advice so it should be of interest to anybody. The classmates you enter law school with in your first year may seem like your peers, and indeed most are your peers, but there exists a subset of your classmates that is so ahead of the game your overall GPAs and LSAT scores are the only real similarity. This group of individuals consists of two subgroups of your law school classmates (admittedly, low in size) that generally arrive near the top of the class at the end of 1L year, albeit by different means.
For most law school students, upon enrollment in law school and appearance at 1L orientation, law school is generally a black hole. They may have researched basic trivialities involving law school, maybe even researched whether any prep is necessary before they begin. On the whole, however, they enter with blank slates ready to tackle the world, optimistic about doing well. As classes begin and the material starts pouring in, the law school students try to follow along as best they can, perhaps participate in class when necessary, and carry a light attitude throughout the semester as they manage to stay on top of their readings. In fact, at the top law schools, there may also exist an erroneous belief that past performance indicates future performance, making this whole revelation even more blindsiding. What these law students do not understand is that among them are some law school students that might as well be labeled machines. This is law school secret group #1. These individuals enter law school with a fully executed plan after a pre-law research and development stage that not only provided them with a treatise of information about the law school process, but a very good idea of all the tricks, loopholes, and game plans that must be executed to landslide across their peers come finals time. Put plainly, they know exactly what is going on. They are fully aware that class participation is irrelevant, that the only objective on Day 1 is the final exam, they know exactly what to pick up on when the professor speaks during lecture and capture it in a way that will be parroted on the final exam, and begin practicing with hypotheticals and taking practice exams months before the average law school student even begins thinking about finals time. These individuals understand the mandatory curve of law school exams, where an A grade must be balanced with a C grade, and anything they do in connection with law school is strictly confined to attaining that A-range grade in December and May. No wasted energy, no irrelevant diatribes, simply tunnel vision.
Although subgroup #1 starts the law school ride on top on Day 1, there is another subgroup of individuals that are simply more intelligent or aware than their peers. This subgroup does not come in with the wealth of knowledge of subgroup 1, but they react and respond to their new environment in lightning fashion. In doing so, they quickly realize most, if not all, of what subgroup 1 has already known. Their realization leads to a speedy reaction, and they navigate their way through the first few months of law school in a way that leads them to the same conclusion as subgroup #1. Quickly enough, they also sail away from their peers come exam time. These individuals generally exhibit characteristics that allow them to succeed in any environment because they are able to recognize, react, and ultimately adapt to any challenge. These are rare qualities.
The two subgroups are certainly not mutually exclusive. In fact, it is quite easy to see how there can be great crossover. Individuals in subgroup #2 are generally those in subgroup #1 and this is precisely why they enter law school with such precision and focus on particular execution, but it is not necessarily the case. In the end, however, what matters is that this relatively small size of individuals takes over fall semester of 1L and only resists some challenge come May when the rest of the students have begun to catch on. Unfortunately, by then for most law students it is too little too late, these subgroups will not get knocked off from their top spots.
The good news is that these types of individuals do not appear in such massive amounts that they hog all the top spots at the end of 1L year. After all, if they did, there would really be no reason to discuss them nor would their qualities be very rare. It is just worthy to mention that they exist, and most law school students lose to them early on in the law school game, completely unaware of the fact. The second round of good news is that many bright individuals may enter subgroup #1 in many facets of their life and gain the benefits that come with being in that position. The key is the ability to separate where you stand within the overall scope of the environment you are attempting to conquer, and realize each step necessary to reach the ultimate goal. In addition, it is the ability to take advantage of your brightness, and not (ironically) disadvantage yourself based on a growing comfort in your inherent abilities spurred by past performances. These are the differences, in fact, that subgroup #1 largely employs to the disadvantage of their seemingly bright law school classmates. They are not the only factors, but they certainly are a major component. It is worthy to note, however, that these types of factors are not simply a result of hard work. If that was the case, many law school students who spend all day in the library 6 days a week would succeed and that often doesn’t happen. There has to be naturally present in the individual an element of certain brilliance, where things just click in the right ways, much in the same fashion as occurs with individuals in subgroup #2. However, even if that is not there, efficient preparation and efficient hard work go a long way, especially in performance on law school exams. In the end, if you can’t overcome these individuals, there is no reason you cannot join them near the top. Your awareness of their existence is all that is necessary, so all the cards are on the table and you have a greater chance at this whole competition thing.