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Are Good Lawyers Smart or Just Plain Determined?

Sure, you've got to have at least some level of smarts to get into law school, pass the bar exam, and practice law. But are lawyers truly smart or does the secret to success come down to grit and determination?

Jim Cantrell argues that it's not money, intelligence, formal education, or even experience that makes up what it takes to be "good" or successful in many endeavors - it's "dogged determination," that drive to never give up.

Cantrell worked with today's captain-of-industry Elon Musk when Musk first began his quest to develop technology that might allow us to colonize space, or at least continue to explore it.

On the Q&A site Quora, a young aspiring engineer asked whether it was possible to be as successful as Musk even if you aren't quite as intelligent. The subtext here is that today's "captains-of-industry," many of whom started tech companies, do seem to possess some measure of smarts. Musk, for example, has degrees in physics and economics and started (but didn't finish) a Ph.D. at Stanford before dropping out to pursue his businesses.

Cantrell didn't directly address Musk's intelligence, but responded by writing that Musk never gave up on SpaceX, whereas Cantrell himself, who worked with Musk on the project, admitted that he left after a year, not believing that SpaceX would succeed as it has.

"SpaceX was not an obvious success in the early days," Cantrell wrote, but points out that Musk "knew that he had the three ingredients and he kept upping the ante every time he faced an obstacle or failure."

What are those three ingredients?

According to Cantrell:

  1. Passion, i.e. you like what you do or you're interested in it
  2. You have some amount of talent (or hard-won ability) for the project
  3. It creates value for other people

When it comes to law, Cantrell's response to the young aspiring engineer rings true (with the exception of formal law school training, a requirement to become a licensed attorney). There are other reasons, but it comes down to this: In order to succeed on any given case, the lawyer must have grit and determination. All the smarts in the world won't make much of a difference if the lawyer isn't determined to do everything possible for the client.

Read more: I Worked With Elon Musk And Learned That Intelligence Is Not The Key To Success 

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