“Some of the best lessons we ever learn we learn from our mistakes and failures. The error of the past is the wisdom and success of the future.” Tyron Edwards (1809-1894).
Everybody experiences setbacks in law school. What makes a difference is how you handle them. Successful people know how to turn their failures and mistakes into learning opportunities. In fact, the word ‘failure’ is not even in their vocabulary. The trick is to own up to your mistake, determine what you need to do differently, overcome the negative emotions and change the detrimental behavior. Admission of a mistake may be a hard thing to do for a lawyer as we are in business of assigning blame, but accepting responsibility is the first step to understanding and learning. If you are not satisfied with your grade, create an opportunity to improve and do better next time. Here are a few questions and suggestions for your post action review:
- Do you have the necessary information to evaluate your exam experience? Sometimes, it is hard to be objective when emotions are involved. Focus on turning the situation into a positive plan of action. Talk to your professor to get additional feedback.
- Were you satisfied with how you prepared for the exam? Was the grade a surprise?
- What were your goals for the exam? Which of those goals were not achieved? Don’t set your goals in terms of getting a particular grade or passing the exam. Think about the skills that are required of you to do well on the test and set your goals around the activities that help you to develop those skills. You want precise and measurable goals. If studying with flashcards helps you to learn the law, put it as your goal to have 100% of the answers correct for each topic you study.
- What was your weakest spot? Did you miss most of the points because you did not know the law, or you could not apply the law to the facts in a logical fashion, or because you ran out of time? Adjust your goals to address the weak spots.
- Are you going to make any changes in the way you study for the next exam? The time is scarce in law school. You need to know which study methods work for you and which don’t. Spend your time on what works.
- How was your physical and mental composure during the test? Is it time to learn some stress management techniques? Would you benefit from a better support network?
- Were you able to capitalize on your learning style during the preparation stage and the test itself? Why not? How can you change that?
- Make a list of the resources you need to do better. Should you join a study group or is your time better spent on practicing with CALI?
- More importantly, if you feel down, focus on a bigger picture: how would it make you feel to accomplish what you started and be able to do what you love? Here is a visualization exercise: Imagine yourself 5 years from now, being successful in what you do. You are a mentor to a young L1 who is eager to know how you got to that point in your life. Looking back on your path, what would you tell him? Create your own story of success.
Is there anything you can add to this “turning point” list? As always, I’d love to hear from you.