March 2013 Bar Bulletin
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March 2013 Bar Bulletin

Law and Basketball: All the Right Moves

By Jeff Liang and Thuy Nguyen


With March MadnessĀ® and the NBA playoffs approaching, young lawyers and law students can draw lessons from basketball to help advance their careers.

A common theme in Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, is the "10,000-Hour Rule," which states that the key to success in any field is based on the time you spend practicing a specific task. You can achieve success in a field after spending 10,000 hours to hone your skills. Steve Nash, Sue Bird and LeBron James met the 10,000-Hour Rule and achieved success as professional basketball players. So how do young attorneys or law students meet the 10,000-Hour Rule?1

Meeting the 10,000-Hour Rule as an attorney is more than just billing 2,000 hours per year for five years. Similar to basketball, the players named above didn't become stars by only playing in 82 games a year at 48 minutes per game (that's 65.6 hours for a full season). They met the 10,000-Hour Rule by playing pick-up games, watching film and tapes, studying the habits of other players, and practicing.

This article highlights the habits of a few professional basketball players that can help young attorneys and law students achieve success as attorneys.

Steve Nash: Learning the Basics

Nash grew up in Vancouver, B.C. and was told that he lacked the physical skills needed to succeed as an NBA player. Nash dedicated himself to learning the basics of basketball and specifically focused on dribbling and shooting. He learned to dribble a tennis ball proficiently while walking to school and had a personal practice regimen of shooting 50 right-handed lay-ups, 50 left-landed lay-ups, 25 free throws and 30 jump shots.

Learning to dribble and practicing your ability to shoot a basketball are equivalent to being in complete control of your legal career and professional development: only you can advance yourself. Poor dribbling or poor shooting could lead to a seat on the bench or being cut from the team. For your legal career, failing to learn the basics could lead to your clients or colleagues seeing you as unreliable.

Successful basketball players need to learn the basic fundamentals of dribbling and shooting. Similarly, young attorneys and law students should know the basics of being a lawyer. Develop a routine or checklist when a partner or client asks for your help. Also, monitor your time so that you can develop a consistent routine when you draft a motion, research an area of law or lead a meeting.

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