For many students, being admitted to law school represents the achievement of an important goal (and the culmination of a lot of hard work). Once law school starts, you should set new academic, professional, and personal goals to give yourself direction and help you stay motivated. But not all goals are created equal. As you’re considering what you hope to achieve in law school, and beyond, keep the following attributes in mind to ensure that you are setting goals that are effective, meaningful, and attainable.
It’s easier to stay focused on a goal that is tailored and specific, rather than some vague, open-ended notion of what you want to achieve. Your goal should be precise and comprehensive, and it should feel attainable to you. Goals can and should be challenging, but they shouldn’t be so unrealistic that you are destined for failure. So rather than musing that you’d like to do something related to property law at some point after graduating or thinking that you’d really like to get a law review article published, work out the specific details of what you hope to achieve and how you need to get there.
Make it Measurable
Many goals are long term objectives that may take months, if not years, to fully meet. Having the finish line so far in the future can make it tough to maintain your motivation and difficult to tell if you’re making progress toward your goal. To counteract this force, set smaller, intermediate goals for yourself that are measurable and attainable. These benchmarks will help you determine whether you’re moving in the right direction or whether you need to reconsider your strategy.
Focus on Skills, Not Scores
Many students focus their goals on rankings, G.P.A.’s, and the impressiveness of their summer internship. While it’s good to have some goals based on grades and professional development, you should also develop goals that are focused on skill improvement. Every student has at least one skill that needs improvement, whether it be grammar, writing style, oral argument abilities, organization, or time management. Setting skills-based goals will not only help you develop into a better lawyer, but it will also help improve your grades!
Even the most zealous student may have times where they procrastinate, lose focus, or lack motivation. Having a system in place to help you manage those moments can prevent you from getting too far off track. One powerful accountability method is to share your goals and benchmarks with another person, and have them regularly check up on your progress (and maybe give you a pep talk or two.) Sometimes just knowing that another person is counting on you and expecting you to complete each step will give you the extra motivation you need to keep moving toward your end goal.
Every law student will be on their own path and have their sights set on a different goal. Some may be shooting for a prestigious, six figure job at Biglaw, while others may hope to open a solo-practice in their hometown. The tips above can help you progress towards your goals in an effective way, no matter what they are. But remember, regardless of what you hope to achieve, you’ll need to work hard to get there.
For more information on the power of goal-setting and how to set effective goals, check out Expert Learning for Law Students by Michael Hunter Schwartz.