In an article about things I wish I knew as a freshman, I outlined 5 tips I thought would be helpful. The final (and probably most important) tip was to “begin with the end in mind”. A little more context may help with understanding what I mean when I say “begin with the end in mind”. The remainder of this article will help people understand how to set proper goals for law school and develop strong plans to meet those goals.
What is beginning with the end in mind?
In 7 Habits for Highly Effective People by Steven Covey, beginning with the end in mind is listed as Habit 2. Covey defines this habit in a very succinct way.
Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind is based on imagination—the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes. It is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There is a mental (first) creation, and a physical (second) creation. The physical creation follows the mental, just as a building follows a blueprint.
– Steven Covey
In other words, beginning with the end in mind is simply visualizing your final goal and setting current plans to ensure you will reach that goal.
Why beginning with the end in mind is so important
Covey continues by sharing what happens if we do not begin with the end in mind.
If you don’t make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default. It’s about connecting again with your uniqueness and then defining the personal, moral, and ethical guidelines within which you can most happily express and fulfill yourself.
– Steven Covey
So, beginning with the end in mind is important so we don’t wonder aimlessly towards a vague idea of a successful life. This is because you have a solid understanding of who you are and where you want to be. As far as preparing for law school goes, beginning with the end in mind prepares you for a career, your studies, and greater personal development.
How to begin with the end in mind
Beginning with the end in mind is often used to refer to life generally. However, because you are here to prepare for law school, we can narrow our focus to apply directly to law school and a legal career. We can put this process into 3 steps.
The easiest way to think about beginning with the end in mind is to work backwards. Imagine yourself 10 years from now, in a career, working for success. Ask yourself, “What legal field do I want to work in? Why? and What drives my reason for being in this field?” These questions will help you develop a goal and a personal statement targeted towards that goal.
Evaluate where you are at currently; whether you just graduated from high school, are in the middle of your undergrad, or applying for law school. Look at your GPA, your major, your relationships with professors and use this information to benefit you.
Build a bridge between where you currently are and where you want to be. Again, it is best to work backwards. For example, imagine you are in your undergrad and want to be a clerk for a Supreme Court Justice after law school. What are the biggest steps that need to be taken to reach that goal? You need to clerk at a “feeder court” (appellate courts SCOTUS likes to draw clerkships from). Before that, you will need to perform at the top of your class. Before that, you need to be admitted to a top tier law school. To do that you need to develop strong relationships with professors, have a high GPA, and obtain a remarkable LSAT score.
To summarize: set a goal, evaluate where you are at, and create a list of obtainable steps that will help you reach that goal. All your craziest legal dreams can be possible if you start early enough and follow this process.
Emily – Did not begin with the end in mind*
Emily was a bright student in her freshman year when she decided to go to law school. Smart, talented, and everything seemed to always go her way. However, Emily had one fatal flaw, she had no plan. She worked through her undergraduate, chose a major in line with her interests and went on her way. Emily quickly graduated with a high GPA and LSAT score but had failed to develop relationships with her professors. She applied to Stanford and Columbia but they denied her application because her professors left a generic review. Instead, Emily attended Florida Law (a good law school mind you, but not what she was hoping).
Once in law school, Emily first began to consider what career she would like to pursue. She came up with a few ideas including pursuing family law, estate law, or criminal law. Emily continued through law school, finding success in her classes. Soon, she graduated, and began to look for a career. A “catch all” law firm picked her up and she had a long career, despite the lack of planning. However, you can’t help but wonder if Emily could have done more, if she only applied herself to a long term vision.
Vivian – Began with the end in mind*
Vivian was a bright student in her freshman year when she decided to go to law school. Smart, talented, and everything seemed to go her way. Despite her success, she knew that she should develop a plan if she wanted continued success. Vivian sat down with an academic counselor and began to evaluate her interests. She was always interested in broadcasting and how the first amendment protected the freedom of the press. Vivian set a goal to work for a broadcasting company in their legal department.
After setting this goal, she went online and looked up all she would need to do to reach that goal. This broadcasting organization was very popular and only hired the best lawyers to do their work. Rarely did the company hire directly out of law schools. So, Vivian knew she had to be top of her class in a highly ranked law school. She also knew to get into those schools she would need to be unique, have a good GPA, a strong LSAT score, and personal Letters of Recommendations from professors.
Because of her interests, Vivian chose to pursue a degree in communications. She graduated by meeting all her goals and was accepted into Harvard. There she sought to be on the law review board because of how closely related broadcasting and journalism are. Over time, Vivian graduated, and began a career at a highly prestigious law firm. Vivian was successful and soon the broadcasting company hired her. She had reached her goals because she had the ability to begin with the end in mind.
*both Emily and Vivian are fictional characters used to illustrate the principle “begin with the end in mind”.