Obama's Life Advice to a Law Student

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on January 20, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

President Obama recently fielded questions from audience members at his town-hall-meeting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, including one question from an enthusiastic Tulane 2L: How can I and my friends be more like you and the First Lady?

This vague question gave the President an opportunity to drop some excellent life advice for future legal professionals.

January 14 Town Hall Meeting

The President was in Louisiana mid-January for a citizen town-hall meeting discussing his aspirations, hopes, and goals before he left the office. Of course, the usual topics included the environment, criminal justice, and education.

In the audience was a very exuberant Anjana Turner, a 2L attending Tulane Law. She noted that she was attending with a fellow law student and her younger sister. "I just wanted to say that we're very inspired by you and the First Lady," she said "and we want to be just like you guys. So can you help us? Give us some tips."

Life Advice From the President

The President obliged Turner with an answer that few people probably anticipated. In an eight minute answer, he waxed rather nostalgically about how people had made personal investments in Michelle Obama at critical stages of her life. He stated that both he and the First Lady would be quick to recognize that their own success was very much a result of the efforts of those around them. It is the responsibility of people, says the President, to "pay it forward."

But equally important was the advice the President gave about personal goals. Paraphrasing what he had to say: spend less time thinking about what you want to be and more time on what you want to do. Success is a byproduct of excellence in an area.

Go out and Apply Yourself

Law students are naturally impatient types and they might find the President's words a little trite. But it's true that the types of people who aim for specific goals tend to also be the types who take failure particularly hard and suffer for it.

Rather than focusing on your goal of being a BigLaw partner, instead focus more on being a standout practitioner of your favorite area of law. When you follow your passion, your career goals will fall in line.

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