Simply Studying—Not School—Makes Lawyers Smarter, Study Shows

Entrance exams supposedly measure a person’s aptitude and acumen. It turns out, however, the exam itself could be responsible for both.

According to a recent study from the University of California, Berkeley, published in the online journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, applying to law school won’t just test your intelligence, it will increase it.

Apparently, studying for the LSAT reinforces circuits in the brain and can bridge the gap between the right and left hemispheres, which, according to researchers, can improve an individual’s reasoning ability and possibly IQ score, reports Sam Favate for the Wall Street Journal.

The research study looked at brain scans from 24 college students and recent graduates before and after they spent 100 hours studying for the LSAT over a three-month period. Then the researchers scanned 23 young adults who did not study for the LSAT.

Among those adults who studied, the brain scans showed an increase in connectivity between the frontal lobes of the brain, as well as between the frontal and parietal lobes, which are the areas of the brain associated with reasoning and thinking, summarizes Favate in the Wall Street Journal.

Unsurprisingly, the study shows that students can, in fact, improve test performance with time and practice. Tutors and LSAT prep courses are certainly listening to the cash register ring at this very moment.

But, more importantly, the study also indicates that analytical skills can be honed into adulthood. Critical thinking and eye for detail are actually skills to be cultivated, not born to an individual or certain personalities.

“What we were interested in is whether and how the brain changes as a result of LSAT preparation—which we think is, fundamentally, reasoning training,” said lead researcher Allyson Mackey, a graduate student in UC Berkeley’s Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute.

“We wanted to show that the ability to reason is malleable in adults.”

Therefore, it seems standardized tests, IQ measurements, or entrance exams—whether to obtain an education or a profession—cannot measure a person’s true potential. Once a person starts to actively read, study, learn, or even play games, cognitive ability will increase.

That means, at your law firm, encouraging associates to take night courses, learn new languages, or simply research outside their immediate responsibilities will ahve high returns on investment.

The value of your human capital can increase over time, with the right motivation. So, instigate round-table debates and provide forums for discussion for your lawyers.

Not only will these activities make your employees smarter, it will also make them happier.

When employees are not intellectually engaged at their place of employment, productivity and work satisfaction fall. This translates to lower revenue for your firm and sloppy casework for your clients.

In a 2010 study by James K. Harter and colleagues, lower job satisfaction foreshadowed poorer bottom-line performance for companies, according to the New York Times article, “Do Happier People Work Harder?”

In fact, Gallup estimates that the cost disgruntled American workers is a staggering $300 billion in lost productivity each year (via NYT).

So, why not dust off your LSAT book and earn a few more dollars (and brain cells) by learning something new. Solving that logic problem today may, surprisingly, help you solve problems in your most recent case matter tomorrow.

All work and no play makes Jack, attorney-at-law, a dull (and dumb) boy.



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