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maybemaybe

Are good lawyers born and not made? Or can you learn to be a good lawyer?

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I feel like law school provides a good legal background but at the end of the day, how much of lawyering is dependent on one's innate abilities? In To Kill a Mockingbird for example, when Atticus Finch conducts his trial, his legal expertise is quite helpful but at the same time, I feel that his ability to deduce conclusions and lead the trial in a way that proves his point is a result of his innate intellect. Of course, that is fiction and is probably different than real life. I'm curious to know in your experience, what skills of a good lawyer cannot be learned and which ones can? Can all skills be learned with practice? Do you think that prior to law school and practicing as a lawyer, you already had what it took be a good lawyer?

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I am clearly ready to be an SCC judge. I am just waiting my turn and doing the grunt work we all have to do. /S

 

Joking obviously. No, there are absolutely skills you'll develop. I'd say most. Predispositioned intellect and privilege will obviously help and be determinative to some extent, but as the eternal optimist, I believe they're less determinative than more. 

In other words, your destiny is in your hands more so than it isn't. And you can develop skills as you see a need for them.

 

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Posted (edited)

With the disclaimer that I'm not a lawyer yet: isn't it is intuitively obvious that (as with most skills) it is learnable to an extent but innate abilities are a big deal?

I am a hair under 5'9 and an ectomorph, and I used to work in law enforcement. I trained in judo and BJJ, but ultimately any guy who was 6'2 and a mesomorph innately had a huge innate advantage over me when it came to use of force/control tactics, and it would take them being incredibly lazy and putting in no effort and me doing an exceptional amount of training in order to offset that disadvantage. If they put in an exceptional amount of training, I was simply not capable of being as good at it as them no matter what I did.

Similarly, I wouldn't recommend for anyone to pursue a legal career if they just aren't that bright. Because it involves performing intellectual work alongside and opposite people who are. And @pzabbythesecond, sorry bro, but I seriously disagree with you here. I have worked in many contexts where the vast majority of people would be simply be incapable of being competent lawyers regardless of how much they attempted to pursue that career. This isn't even to big up lawyering or to say it's that intellectually demanding, but (not to make assumptions about your background or anyone's in particular) as a general observation a lot of law students/lawyers simply don't have enough experience mingling with regular folk to realize just how stupid so many people out there are.

Edited by CleanHands
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You need both to be great. You can learn to be good.

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2 minutes ago, CleanHands said:

With the disclaimer that I'm not a lawyer yet: isn't it is intuitively obvious that (as with most skills) it is learnable to an extent but innate abilities are a big deal?

I am a hair under 5'9 and an ectomorph, and I used to work in law enforcement. I trained in judo and BJJ, but ultimately any guy who was 6'2 and a mesomorph innately had a huge innate advantage over me when it came to use of force/control tactics, and it would take them being incredibly lazy and putting in no effort and me doing an exceptional amount of training in order to offset that disadvantage.

Similarly, I wouldn't recommend for anyone to pursue a legal career if they just aren't that bright. Because it involves performing intellectual work alongside and opposite people who are. And @pzabbythesecond, sorry bro, but I seriously disagree with you here. I have worked in many contexts where the vast majority of people would be simply be incapable of being competent lawyers regardless of how much they attempted to pursue that career. This isn't even to big up lawyering or to say it's that intellectually demanding, but (not to make assumptions about your background or anyone's in particular) as a general observation a lot of law students/lawyers simply don't have enough experience mingling with regular folk to realize just how stupid so many people out there are.

for the people who you believe wouldn't be capable of lawyering, what do you think they lack?

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Posted (edited)
2 minutes ago, maybemaybe said:

for the people who you believe wouldn't be capable of lawyering, what do you think they lack?

Logical reasoning, reading comprehension (and writing ability/basic literacy), communication ability, ability to formulate coherent arguments, attention to detail, general intelligence, etc.

Edited by CleanHands
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Just now, CleanHands said:

reading comprehension, communication ability, ability to formulate coherent arguments, attention to detail,

All of these are learnable.

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Just now, pzabbythesecond said:

All of these are learnable.

Becoming a competent lawyer requires a lot of learning even for people who have the aptitude for it. It would be an absolutely agonizing path for people who don't and require extensive additional learning of basic, foundational skills.

The idea that anyone is capable of doing a decent job doing whatever they want is the nice, progressive, woke thing to say, but it's incredibly naïve. That's really all I have to say about this because we're not going to convince each other.

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2 minutes ago, maybemaybe said:

for the people who you believe wouldn't be capable of lawyering, what do you think they lack?

Perhaps the ability to make reasonable inferences from incomplete information.

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49 minutes ago, CleanHands said:

Becoming a competent lawyer requires a lot of learning even for people who have the aptitude for it. It would be an absolutely agonizing path for people who don't and require extensive additional learning of basic, foundational skills.

The idea that anyone is capable of doing a decent job doing whatever they want is the nice, progressive, woke thing to say, but it's incredibly naïve. That's really all I have to say about this because we're not going to convince each other.

I don't think we're actually disagreeing. I think you're on a "disagree with me" bend lately for whatever reason.

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Anyone can probably become a great lawyer with enough time. It's about how long it takes you to go down this road. That's where the "innate ability" comes in. Someone with a 90 IQ (I know IQ is a bad metric) can probably become a good lawyer with enough time, but the opportunity cost is huge for this person. I'm talking about infinite time here: you can do all the logical reasoning exercises in the world. You can go down as many rabbit holes as needed to find the right answer. 

Here's a warning to anyone reading: people can fudge the numbers in non-obvious ways to trick themselves. We all know someone who would study for hours to get an OK result (let's say B+). That's not hustling, my dude. That's setting yourself up for misery and failure. What takes you less time than other people? Follow that. 

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1 hour ago, Mal said:

Perhaps the ability to make reasonable inferences from incomplete information.

Do you think this is an innate trait that cannot be improved by learning? Because without the complete information, I am very scared to make any kind of inference or conclusion whatsoever.

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31 minutes ago, grishamlaw said:

What takes you less time than other people? Follow that. 

I take less time to fail than other people.... I don't want to follow it though

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I'm curious to know in your experience, what skills of a good lawyer cannot be learned and which ones can? Can all skills be learned with practice? Do you think that prior to law school and practicing as a lawyer, you already had what it took be a good lawyer?

We all learn on the job at one point and pray that our clients don't recognize that it's our first time doing it.

I don't like the idea that some skills can't be taught and some people are just better lawyers than others from the moment they are born. I think that's too deterministic. I am a believer that how successful or skilled you are depends on your attitude towards work and your drive more than anything else.

I do agree that some people could have an easier road than others in becoming a skilled advocate by virtue of mentorship, lawyers in the family, social status, and wealth.

A lot of us are also shaped by the profession in the same way that we shape it. That is, our personalities change as we grow older in the profession. I certainly did not speak with so many qualifiers in my sentences before I became a lawyer.

Traits that are "innate"

I think personality is something that is innate and can't be "learned" or changed easily. A lot of law requires a specific personality - e.g. family law (traits such as patient, empathy, attention to detail, gregariousness etc.)

Integrity, professionalism, and dedication are qualities I think cannot be taught; rather it has to come from within.

Skills that can be taught:

Oral and written advocacy.

Client management.

Interview skills.

Trial prep.

Mediation

Attention to detail.

Manners

(you get my point)

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The question isn't "can you learn to be a good lawyer," but rather, "can you learn to be a good lawyer in your field?" Stop trying to be the jack of all trades. The most incompetent lawyers I have met are generalists trying to dabble in a few or many different areas of law. Many of them also happen to be sole practitioners or working in small firm environments. Most of them are really in it for the pay cheque and not trying to actually learn the law and hone their skills. If you look at most competent, successful lawyers you will notice that one thing they have in common is that they are not trying to present themselves as being the jack of all trades. They've picked one or two focus areas and have spent most of their careers learning and re-learning the law and honing their skills and experiences. They are specialists in their area of expertise. And this concept extends beyond the legal field itself as it applies to anything else like being an electrician, doctor, businessperson, actor, musician, etc. Yes, you need some innate intelligence and drive to be a lawyer, but in order to be a good lawyer, you just need to pick an area of law and master the hell out of it. Very few law students and new lawyers actually approach their careers in this manner which is why they see some early career struggles. 

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18 minutes ago, Aureliuse said:

Traits that are "innate"

I think personality is something that is innate and can't be "learned" or changed easily. A lot of law requires a specific personality - e.g. family law (traits such as patient, empathy, attention to detail, gregariousness etc.)

I don't think there's enough data to support this. I think it's a pretty big point of contention among the cognitive learning scientists that study it as well. How do you know a personality isn't nurtured? I don't disagree that certain people have skills that will transfer and make them succeed easier and to a greater extent, but I don't think you can claim anyone is born with it (assuming a baseline of physical health). 

 I mean it's possible you're born with it, but there's evidence that both supports and challenges that idea, so it could also be Maybelline. It's also a job that has been constructed by certain people in a certain place, so how could you ever get an unbiased sample to find out? 

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OP, consider taking a breather. How many threads have you made in just a couple of weeks/months? There’s such a thing as over-analyzing/researching.

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Hard work beats talent, when talent fails to work hard.

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7 minutes ago, hmyo said:

Hard work beats talent, when talent fails to work hard.

Reminds me of the random quotes they used to put on Quaker oatmeal packages.

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