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First Generation Professionals Fellow Keith Matier L’24 strives for personal success through ‘deliberate practice’

December 13, 2021

Matier knows that success is the product of a steady work ethic, clear concentration, and self-driven motivation.

“Deliberate practice” are the words First Generation Professionals (FGP) Fellow Keith Matier L’24 uses to describe his approach to success. To him, though law school is a new context, he has employed this mindset over the course of his life.

“Whenever I talk to people about trying my best, I liken it to excellent scorers in basketball,” Matier said. “If you’re a basketball player, you need to shoot a thousand shots everyday if you want to be a good shooter.”

Developing a mindset for success

Matier learned from a young age the necessity of maintaining an internal commitment to scholastic success, especially as he moved between different school systems.

In one school, Matier recalled having to wake up at 5 a.m. to take a “stitching of city bus routes” across town to get to school at 8 a.m. In another school, the racism and classism were more overt. Matier was the only Black student in his honors Algebra II course, where the other students referred to him as “Black” instead of his name. Over time, Matier noted how his academic performance and success seemed to vary based on the context — which simultaneously bothered him and drove him toward achieving higher goals.

In college, Matier applied himself consistently, exploring potential career paths in medicine, philosophy, and education while maintaining an active role on the Morehouse College Speech and Debate Team. After college, Matier secured a Teach for America position teaching high school science for three years, where he also founded a debate team that he would ultimately lead to back-to-back state championships.

Though Matier greatly enjoyed debate, both as a competitor on Morehouse’s decorated debate team and as a high school coach, taking on student debt made him uncomfortable, especially because previous mentorship experiences emphasized that students typically do not pay for graduate school. Nonetheless, instead of accepting that law school was not an option, Matier set out to gather more information. He researched options online, sought advice from his debate coach, and had several conversations with his family. Ultimately, he realized that his apprehension could not and should not stop him from pursuing his goal.

“That was the primary unlock to even consider law school,” Matier said about getting over his discomfort with accumulating student debt. “Then the other things fell in place. I love reading and writing, and I absolutely love arguing, so law just made sense from a perspective of wanting to embrace a career that gave me the opportunity to be a craftsman, leveraging skills that I already began developing and cultivating throughout college while also impacting my community.”

Applying the success mindset to law school

Thus far, Matier has approached his legal education with the same “deliberate practice” approach that got him here. As a law student at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, Matier intends to continue working toward internal goals and achievement markers.

When he discovered the First Generation Professionals (FGP) Fellowship, administered through the Center on Professionalism (COP) and supported by a generous donation from David Silk L’88, Matier reached out to FGP Fellows from the Classes of 2022 and 2023 to learn more about their experiences. Upon hearing about the individual professionalism coaching, Matier knew he wanted to apply; to him, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to grow.

“I’m a person who really likes to practice a skill until I can’t get it wrong,” Matier said. “Having the opportunity to practice with a coach in mock interview settings is something I’m looking forward to so I can get the best job opportunities that I possibly can.”

In addition to honing his interview skills, Matier is also eager to participate in financial wellness coaching. He wants to learn about making wise investments, as well as expand his mindset on financial possibility and success, having grown up frugal.

Beyond the FGP Fellowship programming, Matier is eager to participate in a range of academic opportunities that promise to challenge him as a legal scholar. In his second and third years, he aims to enroll in clinics, take several courses outside of the Law School, and participate in moot court competitions.

In the meantime, Matier remains grounded in his careful focus, dedication to practice, and a self-motivated ambition to succeed.

“The Kobe Bryants, the Michael Jordans, the Kevin Durants, the Stephen Currys — even in the game, they shoot the basketball as if no one’s there. They don’t see the competition, the defenders trying to stop them from scoring. They only see the shots they have trained to shoot over and over again,” Matier said. “That’s what I try to do. I try to not rely on the motivation of other people going to the library for me to go to the library. This is the regiment. This is the system that I have. I abide by the system, I work hard, and I try and shoot a thousand shots every day.”

Learn more about the Law School’s commitment to supporting First Generation Professionals.