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Brain Training Helps Lawyers

Brain Training Helps Lawyers

The results of a study, conducted at Texas Tech University School of Law, suggest that brain training can help lawyers improve decision making, identify critical information faster, and enable superior interpretation of information.

Darby Dickerson, formally law dean of Texas Tech, suggests that “if a lawyer’s brain is the lawyer’s main tool, it’s critical that we teach students how to use that tool effectively.” Dickerson added that “Brain training is the missing gap in our program of legal education, and appears to be the key to helping students achieve their full potential. It can help them successfully complete the academic program, pas the bar examination, and build a successful life and career.”

The pilot study was launched in the autumn of 2015 by Texas Tech in partnership with the Centre for Brain Health based in Dallas. New students that semester learnt basic neuroscience concepts, including the role of the frontal lobe, often considered the command centre of the brain.

Staff from the Dallas centre led numerous group sessions exposing students to strategies designed to improve their ability to focus. These strategies highlighted ways to alter thoughts and perceptions in light of new information.

There were nine basic strategies for students to follow, which were then applied in role-play situations within the group sessions.

Some of the strategies are listed below:

• Select two priorities for each day
• Complete one task at a time
• Focus on only the critical facts and information
• Consider the wider information and facts to give a broader context

Some of the training materials used in the scheme were tailored specifically to law students, such as, exercises involving swiftly reading cases, and then identifying, condensing, and explaining the major points to others.
Once this initial training was completed, the students underwent a booster session 30 days later.

Feedback on the sessions from the students was varied, with some suggesting it had helped them develop improved study techniques, synthesise cases, and how to prioritise effectively, while others proposed the training sessions were too long, and offered unrealistic strategies.

However, assessment of the students before, and after, the training sessions established that there was an overall positive effect on their ability to recall facts, and express wider contextual theories. Their capacity to interpret information, prioritising valuable information, and excluding less important data, was also highlighted by observers.

Darby Dickerson suggested that more research is required, and that “to develop a successful program, law schools must make a long-term commitment and collaborate with trained neuroscientists and clinicians.”

She proposed that “they must be willing to integrate brain training throughout a student’s legal education, not just at one or two points.”