Do you enjoy a good, focused discussion?

 In Gill's Blog, Practice Management

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Learning through facilitated discussion

Lawyers are trained to argue, debate and prove their point. It is therefore surprising that much learning we choose is passive and rarely involves participation other than to listen. I suppose that for most of us this was entirely normal, we listened to lectures at University and heard radio programmes and read books. But to-day there are so many more ways in which we can pick up information and learn.

Whilst the idea that we each have a preferred learning style[1] has been somewhat discredited it is true that relying on mainly one way of updating our knowledge is likely to be less effective than exploring a subject or problem in many different ways.

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It is likely that much of what we hear is forgotten almost as soon as we hear it unless we have some knowledge already of the subject to which we can add the new stuff. Even then it might only be recalled as – ‘I am sure someone told me something has changed’ – a kind of red warning flag.

The work of Dan Willingham and Robert Bjork[2] explains that principally we don’t remember things because of insufficient focus when the training was provided, lack of time or attention spent on them, and because of insufficient practice, usage, revisiting, consolidation or application.

In other words, rather than cram lots of learning into one session it is best to tackle learning in manageable chunks. If you do you can really drill down into the issue and approach the topic from a variety of angles using different means but most importantly apply the knowledge to relevant problems, to current knowledge and how it will affect what we already know in practice.

For example, take the Residential Nil Rate Band. This is mostly of interest to lawyers preparing Wills, administering estates and providing tax planning advice but it has some other effects too such as how you store conveyancing documents; the questions you ask on taking on the management of someone’s financial affairs under an LPA or Deputyship or when you manage a trust holding residential property. A great deal of advantage can be gained by a particular firm examining the topic together, practising how it works with examples relevant to their area of work; discussing and debating the issues in confidence; relating it to a firm’s precedents, procedures and approach to clients.

Once you open your mind to a different way of learning, which is fundamentally facilitated discussion rather than merely notes; which involves practising your understanding by applying what you have discussed to work related scenarios and testing your views in discussion with others; you cannot fail to appreciate that this is a better way to learn, apply and remember.

I know it is tempting to ask someone like me to cover a wide range of content in a short period of time or even a whole day but to get the best value for money why not focus on a single topic and truly explore all levels of knowledge and experience in the firm? Share your own real examples and concerns as well as any I can dream up to discuss. [Read more about LawSkills in-house training].

For many senior and highly experienced practitioners this is a good way to share their knowledge with their staff and so assist in internal coaching and mentoring after the event – a sure fire way of embedding what was learnt and ironing out any mis-understandings.

If this sounds up your street why not give Sue or I a call (01962 776442) to discuss what LawSkills can do for you and your colleagues? You never know, you might even have fun too.

[1] http://www.itslifejimbutnotasweknowit.org.uk/files/LSRC_LearningStyles.pdf

[2] https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/willingham_0.pdf

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