Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Optimistic Overconfidence: A Study Of Law Student Academic Predictions

Sam Barder (J.D. 2023, Illinois) & Jennifer K. Robbennolt (Illinois), Optimistic Overconfidence: A Study of Law Student Academic Predictions, 2023 U. Ill. L. Rev. Online 106:

This paper explores optimistic overconfidence among law students. We surveyed more than 600 law students at the beginning of their first year of law school, asking for their predictions about how they would perform relative to their peers in their first year. We found that students were overconfident, with the vast majority predicting that their academic performance would be above the median and three-quarters predicting that they would finish in the top 30%.

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Students’ predictions, however, were unrelated to their ultimate first-year performance.

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In Part II, we provide an overview of optimistic overconfidence, what we know about overconfidence among law students and lawyers, and how overconfidence may vary across individuals. In Part III, we describe our research design and methods. In Part IV, we report our findings—principally that incoming law students are both overconfident and poor predictors of how they will perform. In Part V, we explore what these results mean for law students and law schools. In Part VI, we briefly conclude.


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