This is the thesis of Geoff Colvin, Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (Penguin Group 2008). I am convinced by Colvin and we should all feel both liberated and empowered. Liberated because expertise and skill is not so much bestowed as earned; empowered because even those of us with pedestrian abilities can conceivably race with the best.
The effort demands thoughtful, deliberate practice – often with a coach – for long hours over a long period of time. In-house lawyers can excel even if they did not make law review. They can excel by dint of studied application, especially focused on weak areas, kept at with commitment and self-reflection. Excellence for Horatio Alger, Esq..
This blog has worked hard to stress the potential of focused effort (See my post of June 12, 2005: ten years to become expert; July 15, 2005: how to increase “deep smarts”; Nov. 6, 2006: experts work hard to chunk knowledge, pursue ambitious goals, and study hard; Jan. 18, 2007: a decade of concentrated effort; and Dec. 15, 2009: takes at least 7-10 years of experience for someone to survive as a solo lawyer in a legal department.).