« on: April 08, 2011, 10:48:37 AM »
I don't mean to make too much of this, but for a real lawyer, one strives to do (and be) the best. Really. The very, very best. Not just "good enough," or "that's silly," or "golly isn't this over yet?"
Ya know, I agree with this as a general statement. If the O/P really is trying to nail down a 180, then he is a fool to do anything other than EVERYTHING he can possibly do to nail down that 180. Good for him. I applaud everything about that.
However, a "real" lawyer? I'm struck by a quote by Mark Lanier who said that when he took the bar exam, if he passed by 1 point more than the minimum required, then he studied too much:
I'll take a stab at explaining what Thane is talking about.
I agree with your Lanier quote - but, to paraphrase the esteemed philosopher Inigo Montoya, it does not mean what you think it means. The bar exam is binary - you pass or you fail. There is no difference between passing by one point and passing by a thousand points. What Thane and I are saying is perfectly consistent with Lanier's approach. "Perfection," with regard to the bar exam, means passing, not getting the best possible score.
The LSAT is different - it is not binary. Every extra point increases your chances of gaining admittance to a better school. For the LSAT, "perfection" means 180. Every other score is "not perfection."
Now, with regard to perfection in the context of life as a "real lawyer," I hope you will forgive me for quoting myself. From Jagged Rocks of Wisdom:
"Our clients pay us for product 'A.' They don't pay for product '90%-of-A,' or product '99%-of-A.' It is either 'A' or 'not-A,' and '99%-of-A' might as well be '0%-of-A.' 99% is better than 50% only because it will take less work to get up to 100%. Ultimately, everything gets to 100%."
What it means to be 100% varies, of course, but whatever the expected (i.e., required) result, that is the only acceptable result. "100%" means that you got the partner what he wanted. "Almost-A" is the same as "not-A." So when the partner asks you to draft a motion that meets his expectations, then that is what you must do. Drafting a motion that almost meets his expectations, even 99% of his expectations, means that your memo does not meet his expectations, and you failed to perform your task. Every task on the job is pass/fail, and the passing grade is 100%.
However, like anything in life, there comes a point of diminishing returns.
Also true - but on the job, you don't get to decide when you have reached that point. The partner, and only the partner, decides when you are finished. The partner defines success, not you.
I think that point comes pretty quickly on reading comprehension. If, after four years of college, you need somebody to coach you on reading comprehension, then I sincerely doubt that an elite law school is in your future.
Quick side note - reading comprehension was my weakest LSAT section by far. But I studied hard, improved my score, and ended up doing quite well. Everyone is different.
Applying to law school, finishing law school, practicing the law, and basically any other significant endeavor in life will always boil down to managing your finite resources to attain your goal.
So, if you're saying work as hard as you can, do the best that you can, use all the resources at your disposal, I'm right there with you. Right on! Go for it.
You are of course correct, in a general sense. The point that Thane was making, however is that on the job, this doesn't apply to junior associates (or junior anything). You are a resource being disposed of, and you do not have the authority to decide when you have prepared "enough." You either will or will not perform the task asked of you. If the end product meets the partner's expectations, then you have succeeded. If not, then you have failed.
Now, your Lanier quote applies to the extent that doing "101%-of-A" would in fact be wasteful, as the extra 1% will be disregarded. But, frankly, I would not advise fresh law grads to worry too much about what to do if they are constantly exceeding partner expectations.