Law Students: Perfectionism Is Not Your Friend

By William Vogeler, Esq. on February 27, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

There is no perfect path to success in law school.

You will not experience nirvana at graduation when all the suffering of legal study ends.

No, that moment of nirvana comes only to those who follow the path of pain. For many law students, it is the path of the perfectionist.

Perfectionism Hurts

Kerriann Stout, writing of her experience for Above the Law, says most law students are perfectionists. She said that attribute can help and it can hurt.

Decreased productivity, procrastination, crushed creativity, low self-esteem, and a lack or energy are all pitfalls on the perfectionist path, she says. Stout suggests ways to get around them, like the hamster-wheel problem.

"Appropriately named because you are quite literally going around in circles and getting nowhere," she said. "In order to move forward, you've got to jump off the wheel."

It's about breaking bad habits, including unproductive, obsessive behavior, and developing new ones. It might be as simple as getting some exercise, some fresh air, or developing other healthy habits.

There is an elephant in the law school room, however.

What About the Bar Exam?!

If law school doesn't prepare you for the bar exam, it is a path to nowhere. So here is a tip from the other side of the road: study like you are preparing for the bar exam.

Besides substantive legal knowledge, the big exam requires particular skills. Mutlistate, essay, and performance sections test differently.

Learning multiple-choice strategies and writing practice essays help. For the performance exam, which is most like the real law world, carefully read questions, manage time accordingly, outline your answer, and use the material provided.

If you are a perfectionist, you will find a way to focus on law school with the ultimate test in mind. And yeah, it's going to hurt.

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