TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud: Defensive Pessimism In Legal Education

Emily Zimmerman (Drexel) & Casey LaDuke (Virginia), Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud: Defensive Pessimism in Legal Education, 66 Cath. U.L. Rev. 823 (2017):

Defensive pessimism is a strategy that involves setting low expectations and reflecting extensively on what could go wrong in connection with a future event in order to manage anxiety and facilitate performance. Previous researchers have suggested that defensive pessimism may benefit law students academically. However, up until now, law students’ use of defensive pessimism has not been empirically studied. We investigated law students’ use of defensive pessimism and compared the use of defensive pessimism by law students, undergraduate students, and community members. Contrary to the suggestions of other scholars, we did not find statistically significant relationships between defensive pessimism and law school academic performance.

However, we did find positive relationships between defensive pessimism and neuroticism, and defensive pessimism and perceived stress. These results suggest that legal educators and those who counsel law students should be sensitive to law students’ use of defensive pessimism. Students may be in distress in law school, although that distress may not be manifested in students’ academic performance. In addition, an awareness of different strategies used by individuals in performance situations can help legal educators more constructively interact with law students and better prepare students to work effectively with others who may not necessarily use the same strategies.

Legal Education | Permalink