The legal profession is very elitist. There is little doubt in it.
Legacy is a big thing in law from what I have seen. Recently someone I was talking to pointed out how most of the current sitting judges in the Supreme Court are mostly related to former judges, governors etc. It is also more common for lawyers with elite pedigree to become a public prosecutor, standing counsel, advocate general, attorney general or bag any such other plum government posting. It’s no different in private practice or law firms.
Why does that happen?
Those from elite background get easy access to law schools with very high fees and entry barrier. They can pay full fee and go abroad to get degrees from prestigious universities where others would require scholarship to get to. Their early career jobs and legal training are often superior than what most others would ever get thanks to their access and privilege. It is easier for them to get cases when they go independent thanks to a readily available, supportive, pre-existing referral network.
And they continue to get the support of that inherited network lifelong, as they keep growing, come across obstacles, unless they screw up in some major way.
Do all the elite kids do well in life?
All parents with riches and access, however, know that those things do not always guarantee success for their children. Despite all the resources, some children of such families show the penchant for ruining their careers and lives. You will see a lot of law graduates with influential and illustrious family backgrounds who have failed to make any mark at all and barely manages to survive in the profession.
Then there are the others from such families, who take what they get, and look forward to growing even bigger. Surely, their launchpad is much higher than the rest. They do have a huge advantage and a headstart over the rest.
So what happens to those who are not from such a background?
Where does this leave the rest of the people, who do not come from money or such influence? This is a question I had to grapple with early on in my life as a law student, as I suppose many of you also have.
The answer I have discovered is simple. The people in power and elite positions will like us to believe that their advantage over us is absolute, that there is no way we can overcome the gaping chasm between our world and theirs. If we believe that the purpose of elitism is fulfilled.
If I went to NLS Bangalore I may like to think that I am so superior that students from other law colleges will never make a better lawyer than me. Someone studying law at Harvard would want to believe that those who go to non-ivy league law colleges will never measure up to a Harvard law graduate in their lives.
However, the realities of life soon catch up. There is no such absolutely superiority or advantage that can assure anyone superior success for the rest of their lives.
It is not that students of NLUs always do better than students of other colleges. Or that alumni of Harvard always do better than those of non-ivy league law colleges.
I will tell you a story. I was travelling through the UK when I was in college. I was staying with a Scottish family, and over dinner they were asking me questions about my career. I was telling them how I presented a paper on space law and ballistic missiles at the International Aeronautical Congress at Glasgow. I also told them about my career plans, that involved starting up a technology company. I also shared how London law firms hire law graduates from my college routinely.
They were shocked. They were used to thinking of India as a poor, backward country. And there I was, an Indian, talking about things they do not imagine themselves doing. London law firms go across the world to hire Indian lawyers and bring them to London? Their worldview shifted.
The world order was that white people living in UK are the elite, and they will have more success, riches, access in the world. But that is elitism, and it does not remain true. The equilibrium of the world is such that we soon get past elitism, provided the non-elite keeps climbing.
It is not easy to sustain elitism where the non-elite wants to go up the ladder. This is the most critical thing to understand about elitism.
How to be immune to elitism
Elitism is just a belief system. When faced with evidence that non-elite people bring more to the table, the belief system soon falls apart.
China was a poor country too, but today Europe is overrun by the Chinese, and many old school, iconic businesses are being bought up by Chinese investors. Often the Chinese immigrants are replacing the native families in so called elite neighbourhoods because of their superior purchasing power. This is also very common in big cities in the USA. It is hard to say that they are non-elite these days.
So things can turn around. The elite makes a play to stay elite, and consolidate power and resources in their favour. However, those who are not elite have to come up the ladders, and they often gain a lot of momentum and strength along the way, because the process demands that.
The act of continuous self-development, improvement of your craft and connectedness with your communities, and the ability to tell your story gives you immunity against elitism.
Remember, just like there are elitist sentiments in the society, there are also anti-elitist sentiments too!
If you are striving to climb to the top, here are some things you could learn from the elite.
If you are not part of that club, you need to pay attention to what keeps the elite in their vantage position.
I deserve good things
The most important is the belief system that you deserve the best and that nothing can stop you from going to the top. The elite believes that good things and success belongs to them, by birthright. It is a tragedy if they cannot get it.
On the contrary, the rest is often taught not to think too big. I was told to keep my dreams small, to not strive for too much, because it’s risky! That programming can be extremely damaging.
If you do not think that you deserve the best in life, that you can even get there, you are least likely to strive for it. And therefore, you are also the least!likely to ever fulfill your true potential. If you can learn one thing from the elite, let this be a lesson. Your belief system that is operating deep inside our brain is often the most important factor when it comes to success. So you better develop a belief system that supports growth rather than prevent it!
We are in this together
The other striking feature of the elite that they stick together. They have allies, they have network, they have favours they can call upon. Most people are not comfortable when it comes to doing favours, asking for a favour, or returning a favour. That is not how the elite operate! This is the 2nd thing I want you to learn. Incessantly invest in a professional and personal network, hang out with people you are proud of, and create communities. That is how you can get the same power as the elite has!
We have not arrived, we just have a lead that we need to protect
The third thing I want you to learn is that no success is final. The elite knows it, and have to continuously work to stay at the top. It is said that money never rests. Neither do the elite, if they remain at the top. History is of course full of stories of the elite that took their place for granted and therefore soon became redundant.
Taking your position for granted is disastrous. When you begin to do the right things in life, such as developing powerful habits with respect to money, work, discipline, integrity, reputation and networking, you will start to see some amazing results. Many people at this point then reverse their habits. We have arrived, so we can now take it easy!
Look at the elite, and you will see some who rest and those who don’t. And see what happens to them. Fortune does not take a lot of time to turn the tables! Bad and unpredictable things happen even to the elite all the time! Only those who stay on their toes at all times and continuously up their game manage to survive!
What would it look like if you did that too?
Take pride in where you come from
The elite is proud just because they were born in a certain family, a certain kind of circumstances. The rest often think that because their circumstances were less fortunate, they need to hide where they came from!
Absolutely not. Your story and journey, even if you came from a difficult situation, shows your strength and qualities. You story is something that you must own and be proud of. Only that can give you the strength that you need to get to the top.
Your one big advantage – your struggle
If you are not elite, but taking on the elite to get to the top, remember that your biggest asset is your struggle. It is not the worst thing about being non-elite, it is the best thing. You will struggle, strive, grapple, deal with problems and obstacles that do not exist into the world of the elite people. And this will make you stronger, cannier, more pragmatic and a formidable challenger.
Your struggle does not make you weak, unless you give up. It makes you stronger and prepares you for the ultimate win.
So how are you planning to take on the elitism in the legal industry?
How are you preparing yourself to be counted among the best?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
What factors will work in your favour, and what will work against you?
What are the abilities and skills you are developing that will make it very hard to write you off?
What will be the reason you will ultimately win?
I hope you spend some time thinking about these things.
All the best!
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Executive Certificate Courses