Assistant Professor Heinrich’s article on cultivating grit in law students featured on TaxProf Blog
Cultivating Grit in Law Students
Denitsa Mavrova Heinrich (North Dakota), Cultivating Grit in Law Students: Grit, Deliberate Practice, and the First-Year Law School Curriculum, 47 Cap. U. L. Rev. 341 (2019):
What characteristics reliably predict success? Why is it that some individuals accomplish more than others of equal intelligence? Why do some make the most of their abilities while others barely tap into their potential? In examining these questions, psychologist Angela Duckworth discovered that grit was the one characteristic all highly successful individuals had in common.
Grit, defined as “passion and perseverance for the long-term goal,” has proven to reliably predict success in a variety of domains. In the educational setting, specifically, grit has emerged as a strong predictor for student success at both the secondary and undergraduate levels. Yet, despite the research showing a positive relationship between grit and academic achievement, grit remains virtually unexamined in the context of legal education.
This Article illustrates why grit is a concept worth examining in legal education. In particular, the Article argues that cultivating grit in law students is a pedagogical goal worth pursuing in legal education in order to improve student learning and promote student success.
After exploring how grit can grow, the Article suggests that one effective way for nurturing grit in law students is to help students develop the capacity to engage in deliberate practice. Deliberate practice, described as “the most powerful and effective way to improve one’s abilities” in every area studied, has been shown to also help grit grow.2By incorporating the principles of deliberate practice into the first-year law school curriculum, law schools can therefore help cultivate grit in students, in the hope that the grittier our students are, the more likely they will be to succeed in law school and beyond.