Whenever we face a novel situation, such as a new job or a new academic program, it is a good idea to take an inventory of the skills we bring with us. The uncertainty can make us fearful that we are not good enough or smart enough to do what we are supposed to do. Reflecting on our skills and past experiences can help overcome our doubts and charter a plan to make the best of our abilities.
As Step 2 of our Orientaion Series, you are going to create an inventory of your skills. If you don’t know how to begin, this checklist can help you look at different types of experiences you may have had in life and the accompanying skills. It is presented as a job-related exercise, but it can help you prepare for law school as well. In addition, there are various assessments available online to determine your strengths. Idealawg recommends two objective aptitude tests (and a good discussion of why self-report tests can be problematic). If you want to learn more about multiple intelligences, check out this Multiple Intelligence Inventory.
Once you have your list of skills, consider how you can easily enhance the ones that you need most in law school. Is there an easy way to make a decent skill superb? For example, I was a decent reader and did OK with the reading skills I had for quite a while. But when I discovered a few really simple reading techniques, such as previews and multiple passes, my comprehension and retention got much better, and reading took less time. Or let’s say you are a decent writer. How can you enhance your writing skills in law school? One way is to pay attention to how effective legal writers do their job. When you read legal opinions or articles written by lawyers who are recognized as good writers, notice how they structure their paragraphs, what words they use, how they make the information flow. Now you are reading not just to understand the text, but also to analyze the writing itself and use it as a model for your own writing.
Finally, put down the skills that you think you need but lack right now. If any of them are crucial to the success of your legal career, you may need to plan how to work on those skills. For example, if you dislike networking, you may have to find good strategies to make the task more tolerable and perhaps, gradually, build up an interest in it.
Once you’ve done this exercise, you may be surprised at how much you already know. This is a good foundation for your future success.
Orientation Series: 21 Steps to Becoming a Better Learner:
Step 1: Setting your learning objectives