Two Courts: Leaving Basketball and Finding Success in Law

During my four years at Columbia University, my focus was always on Basketball. For me, every day was about striving to get better, and do whatever I could to help my team be successful. Suddenly, those four years came to an end, and I was confronted by the challenge of transitioning away from basketball and into law.

While other students had been doing internships and extracurriculars, I had been focusing on basketball, and felt somewhat unprepared. I thought I would be unprepared and at a disadvantage, but being a student athlete gave me a lot of intangible skills that I’ve been able to translate to the workplace.  

The first is working in teams. Boies Schiller Flexner, we were assigned several cases and each case has a team. Typically, it’s the busyness of the case that determines the frequency with which the team meets. With each of these cases, we’re assigned specific tasks that have to be completed. The cycle of meeting as a team and completing an individual task repeats throughout the duration of the case. You constantly have to balance your individual assignments with your contribution to the team. In basketball it’s the same thing. You have to work on your skills on your own outside of the team practices to ensure that you are able to perform at the top of your athletic game.  In a team that goal is winning, and at Boies Schiller Flexner that goal is completing the assigned case successfully. The same skills are required for both, you need to be driven, work hard and be able to function well with others.  

A lot of the time, I was able to shine in my new role at my law firm especially during times of crisis. I’ve found that things go wrong in the workplace all the time. One time during a trial, an important document was missing; we didn’t have it to present to the judge. This caused a panic on our side. But working at a job, in this case, particularly a high-pressure job that requires quick and accurate results, is like sports when a play goes wrong. Athletes know it is about the next play.  This is sort of an unconscious approach that I took during that trial. Instead of worrying about the document missing, I tried to figure out a solution in a calm manner, which amid chaos, can alleviate everyone else’s uneasiness. Being an athlete has certainly helped me handle stressful and high-pressured situations like that effectively.  

Often, the pressure of situations can be very tough to handle for some, especially when it comes to working with your superiors. Playing four years of college basketball taught me I was very qualified to handle screaming and harsh criticism and not take it personally. Coaches yell and scream all the time. Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it does not. When you get yelled at athletes know to hear the important, helpful information. All the rest is noise. Being able to handle that, not take it personally and still do my work effectively is something I was prepared to deal with. I’ve learned that others were not used to this type of communication in the workplace.  

The most important thing I learned from college basketball was simply how to be dedicated work hard. Being an athlete and going through all the pressures of being great at your sport and being excellent academically forces you to keep your head down and move forward. This mindset helped, , especially when I would have cases that would get extremely busy forcing me to stay at the office late and get to the office early. To those about to make the same transition as I did, whether it is one year of four years away. I would say to be patient, learn as much as you can, and don’t be too hard on yourself. The transition is tough. The fact that you are not scheduling everything around your sport is a drastic change after having done it for nearly all your life. However, know the team structure given to you has prepared you well. If you are patient, translating the skills and mindset from sports can help you find success.