Tag Archives: learning

Learn To Master The Skill Of Un-Learning

If you understand the title of this post, then you’re already halfway en route to success…

Clearly, it stands to reason that if a person is attracted to the idea of learning new skills—technological, artistic, linguistic, or technical, for example—then that same person should be against the idea of unlearning them, right?

Except, it turns out that the art of unlearning skills is also a skill (make sense?).

People are constantly conditioning themselves to various behaviors. Like puppies, professionals are required to climb a steep learning curve. The faster a professional can absorb new skills, behaviors, or knowledge, the better for her employer.

“Rather than viewing change as an aberration, we need to understand it as a natural part of life and work,” writes Nilofer Merchant in “What I Learned from My TED Talk” from the HBR Blog.

“Adaptability is central to how organizations and people thrive today. Our goal today is to learn our way into the future.”

So, after your supervisor yells at you for the n-teenth time, you condition yourself to always press spell-check before “send” on the computer.

After emailing a senior associate over and over again (and realizing he will never respond), you get in the habit of dropping by his office to collect work assignments or to ask questions. And, when it becomes clear the IT system crashes at least once during an e-filing, you start to push forward all deadlines by one hour to compensate.

Sometimes, however, we pick up more than just advantageous habits. We pick up bad habits, workplace quarks, or inefficient work practices.

“Which is why one ‘rule’ of my recent book on the Social Era is: ‘Learn. Unlearn. (Repeat.),’” instructs Merchant.

But, the question remains: How can lawyers unlearn habits sometimes decades in the making?

1. Rules

Set rules for what behaviors you desire to change. For example, if you’ve conditioned yourself to send emails when, in reality, you should be circulating the office in person, write this down as a goal.

Post goals for behavior or habits in a visible place at the office. Not only will your goals be concrete, they will now also be actionable.

“And without being able to name the thing, you can’t change the thing. But by naming it, any of us can and will see it as something we can question and only then can we unlearn it,” writes Merchant.

2. Reliance

The biggest misconception about the process of unlearning something is that admitting to bad habits is embarrassing or shameful. Most people don’t want to acknowledge their inefficiencies.

Yet, success relies on change. And, a person should rely on collusion from colleagues.

“To figure out what went wrong, we often need an outside perspective,” explains Merchant.

“This is why consultants can add value. Knowing I didn’t know what went wrong, I brought in a performance expert and asked her for clear, actionable feedback.”

Ask your colleagues for assistance. If your biggest problem is unlearning to write and then read a script during presentations (*yawn*), put down pen and paper and pick up a helping hand.

Give a sneak-peak of your presentations to family members, friends, or officemates. Ask them to steal your speech notes from you, or (in a less extreme manner) ask them to remind you to rely less on written notes and more on the content’s noteworthiness.

3. Rewards

People, like pets, respond to positive reinforcement. The best (and, some would say, only) way to uncondition behavior is to recondition the opposite behavior.

Incentivize appropriate actions. And, don’t dwell on moments of accidental bad behavior.


Finally, unlearning requires rules, reliance, rewards, and—most importantly—repetition.

If you don’t get it right right away, don’t give up. Remember, it’s impossible to drop a twenty-year habit over the course of twenty-four hours.

Still, is unlearning really that important?

“Unlearning is harder than learning, but it’s crucial to do … because innovation and creativity are rarely about doing more of the same.”

There is a lot to appreciate about the consistency of law and behavior… as long as it’s just, deserved, and competent. For all those other habits, learn to unlearn.


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iBook Author For Attorneys? Apple’s E-Textbook Industry & Lawyers

Yesterday, the Internet was aflutter about the announcement of iBooks 2, iBooks Author, by Apple.

Online critics questioned: The demise of the publishing industry? New opportunities for budding authors? Open season on new entrants to the electronic textbook field?

First, it’s important to know what the culprit—iBooks—is all about. So, here is the description of the first version of the app:

“Now anyone can create stunning iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books, and more for iPad. All you need is an idea and a Mac. Start with one of the Apple-designed templates that feature a wide variety of page layouts. Add your own text and images with drag-and-drop ease. Use Multi-Touch widgets to include interactive photo galleries, movies, Keynote presentations, 3D objects, and more. Preview your book on your iPad at any time. Then submit your finished work to the iBookstore with a few simple steps. And before you know it, you’re a published author.”


Wait a minute, not so much. It’s hard to understand, then, why all the buzz?

It’s no secret that Apple hopes to put an iPad in every classroom in America in the near future. The first step in accomplishing this monumental feat is tackling the publishing industry. After all, after desks and students, the next items to create a complete classroom are textbooks. E-learning, these days, makes teachers practically moot.

With this in mind, Apple’s foray into the field of online learning has been its app, iBooks.

iBooks allows any person to become an author. And, the second-generation software will include movies, multi-touch gestures, links, lightning-fast searches, photo galleries, visual Q&A sections, 3-D models and other interactive elements to textbooks.

Thursday, Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller revealed iBooks 2 and kicked off the company’s invitation-only event, according to Technologizer’s Henry McCracken, with:

“Education is deep in our DNA, and it has been since the very beginning.”

In fact, education promotes intellectual advancement and innovation in both students and professionals. Just take the CLE requirements in the field of law or medicine as examples.

New company and website PandoDaily writes about the Apple iBook controversy, “Every time technology makes it easier for authors to self-publish, we hear the same crowing from Silicon Valley. ‘That’s it!’ they cry ‘publishers are doomed! Now authors can publish their own books, there’s no need for greedy, bloated gatekeepers who just want to force-feed us Snooki like a Frenchman force-feeding grain to a goose.’”

But, Pando’s not buying the hype.

“A year or so ago, I wrote an essay about why self-publishing will never kill professional publishing. Reading it back now , one paragraph jumps out…

‘…in a world where anyone can publish a book, we’re more likely than ever to be drawn to titles put out by recognised publishing houses. We simply don’t have time to sift through the millions of options available to us, so a good first filter will be titles we know have been edited by professionals, which a major publishing house has deemed of sufficient quality to warrant making a financial investment. Those of us lucky enough to have a W&N or Harper Collins or Portfolio logo on our title page will automatically hop to the front of the attention queue, both in terms of end readers and the still-very-important book reviewers.’

iBooks isn’t going to change that. If anything it’s going to make the signal-to-noise ration worse — which in turn makes the role of a professional publisher even more valuable. Particularly in text books, where trust and accuracy are not just an important thing, they’re the only thing. That’s why Apple partnered with McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for today’s launch announcement.”

Phew. Academics and publishers can rest assured that 2012 is not, in fact, the industry’s doomsday.

Nevertheless, an opportunity remains for law firm professionals looking to publish.

The first e-textbooks to arrive on the iPad will be exceedingly popular. And, millions of students will use them as a source of reference.

As a law firm, why not become an early entrant to the burgeoning industry? Forrester Research said e-books accounted for only 2.8 percent of the $8 billion U.S. textbook market in 2010, according to FindLaw news.

Not only will producing a law e-book get your firm’s name out on the market, it will also advertise your firm’s expertise to inquiring young minds and prospective future attorneys and clients.

Or, if your firm is uninterested in selling textbooks, try creating a reference manual on, say, law firm management or internal e-policy. Undoubtedly, the interactive portions of iBook Author will make mandatory sexual harassment or new employee training much more engaging.

Not to mention, the iBook Author software to produce electronic textbooks of informative, topical legal analysis is—as it ever was—still free.

Clearly, the New Year marks a change in every American classroom—an Apple for each teacher, and now each student, and, potentially, new, aspiring lawyers.


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5 Essential Podcasts for Law Firm Professionals

In any business and during all economic eras, professionals striving for success must learn to maintain a competitive edge in their industry.

In the past, that meant higher education degrees, certificate courses, or self-taught skills in complimentary fields. For some professionals—doctors and lawyers—this extra training and continuing education is mandatory.

However, professionals working in various areas of law may not, actually, be J.D. graduates or restricted by the same regulatory bodies. Law is composed of assistants, paralegals, consultants, patent specialists, engineers, managers and administrators, to name just a few.

Thus, for those with a drive to compete within and move to the top of their profession—whether the steps to do so is mandatory or not—the following podcasts should help you get there.

1. Legal Talk Network

Legal Talk Network hosts multiple podcasts and talks. Their subjects range from legal technology, to discussions of prominent figures in the field, to office etiquette.

Some of their most recent subjects include, Legal Technology, The Impact of Steve Jobs on the Legal Profession, and Gender Equality in Citizenship Laws.

2. The Wall Street Journal This Morning

The Wall Street Journal has cutting-edge news reporting every morning, available for free online. In lively, one-hour segments, the anchors give you a blend of intelligent information, humor, and expert analysis of the current, most newsworthy items.

Whether you plug into This Morning in your car or on the Web, make sure you start the day fully apprised of the recent business, political, and legal developments.

3. ABA podcasts

The American Bar Association (ABA) offers a variety of webinars and online CLE seminars for the legal professional. Legal professionals are already likely to be familiar with the ABA site, but it’s worth a few more minutes to give the audio portions a chance.

4. Law and Disorder radio

Independent radio program and podcast, Law and Disorder radio hosts may seem left-leaning at first. Even still, the subject matter is interesting, controversial, and topical.

Recent topics include implications of the Occupy Wall Street protests, human rights, and Muslim profiling.

In the least, this podcast provides the fodder for conversation among your peers and superiors. Next time you’re stuck in the elevator with a law partner or in the middle of a period of awkward silence, tap into your law and disorder discourse for debatable subject matter.

5. NPR Planet Money

Lawyers often find finance and money matters to be the weakest link in their chain of expertise.

If this is the case for you, in an effort to become well-rounded in financial matters and learn the legal implications of U.S. economic policy, try listening to Planet Money by NPR. The hosts have a knack for explaining complicated financial issues in simplified, informative, yet entertaining ways.

At the same time, it’s difficult to fight the old adage that “you get what you pay for”. Although each of these podcasts are essential additions to your competitive legal repertoire, ask your law firm to purchase audio learning pieces with more comprehensive content for its employees.

Consider The Center For Competitive Management’s audio conferences or recordings in the areas of Corporate Finance, Education, General Management, Human Resources, Law Firm Management, and Laboratory Management. Subjects include, California Labor and Employment Law Update, Unclaimed Property Reporting and Compliance, Team Management, and The Smart Woman’s Guide to Fearless Negotiation, for example.

Law firm professionals and the firm in which they work will benefit from the leadership and management tips that typical legal education and experience can sometimes leave out.

Via podcasts or audio courses, learn to listen your way to the top.


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Five Business Books All Lawyers Should Read

Understanding best business practices will propel law firms into the top tier of industry leaders. At the same time, understanding the business dilemmas of your firm’s many corporate clients will also provide tools for successful. So, curl up with these five business books tonight to make the billable hour tomorrow more effective.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Malcolm Gladwell’s book is not new, but his ideas still resonate with the world. The Tipping Point is about the spread of ideas, trends, and social behaviors. For lawyers, who aim to defend justice, send poignant messages, and start trends in the legal system, Gladwell’s book has a lot to contribute.

“We all want to believe that the key to making an impact on someone lies with the inherent quality of the ideas we present. But in none of these cases did anyone substantially alter the content of what they were saying. Instead, they tipped the message by tinkering, on the margin, with the presentation of their ideas… There is a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible. All you have to do is find it.”

Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make that Sabotage Their Careers

There are still very few female law partners. Lois P. Frankel’s book may explain why. As a woman, you’ll either embrace the advice and push your career forward. Or, you’ll be outraged at her audacity, which serves to motivate a woman even more.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Dan Ariely, a MIT professor of behavioral economics, explains why intelligent people make unintelligent decisions. “But suppose we are nothing more than the sum of our first, naive, random behaviors. What then?” postulates Ariely. Here’s to hoping attorneys can (at least) prevent this behavior in court.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t

Jim Collins is the premier expert on business success. Law firms, like other businesses, can benefit from the case studies of Good to Great. It’s a good reminder that corporate culture and human capital are the most important aspects of the best and biggest growing firms. And, it’s a great reminder that innovation and change–rather than standing still or sticking with the status quo–are essential to longevity.

“Making the transition from good to great doesn’t require a high-profile CEO, the latest technology, innovative change management, or even a fine-tuned business strategy. At the heart of those rare and truly great companies was a corporate culture that rigorously found and promoted disciplined people to think and act in a disciplined manner.” (Amazon.com review)

The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business

There’s really no need to summarize Clayton M. Christensen’s book as the title says it all. Associate professor at Harvard Business School, Christensen explains why technology and anticipating markets is the key to success.

“The innovator’s dilemma [is] that ‘good’ companies often begin their descent into failure by aggressively investing in the products and services that their most profitable customers want.”

In fact, although feedback from customers is crucial to improving business practices, it is the trend over time that will help firms anticipate market demand to provide relevant services. For law firm administrators, this means asking the biggest corporate clients for advice and suggestions, but not relying exclusively on their opinions to make decisions.

Law firms, like Fortune 500 companies, often fail to adapt or adopt new technology that will meet clients’ unstated or future needs. These firms will lag behind, argues Christensen. This book is one more reason law partners and firm managers should implement cutting-edge, technological changes in firm operations, both around the office space and in cyberspace.


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When The Mind And Mobile Technology Are In Sync (And When To Disconnect)

There’s no doubt that new technology is an asset in boosting the learning curve of young associates and in increasing the survival rates of outdated law firms.

Just this morning, results about the prevalence of smartphones among lawyers were staggering. In biglaw, nearly 100 percent of lawyers use a smartphone for law-related tasks. In general, at least a majority (88 percent) of lawyers use a BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, or Windows phone each day.

And, the number of lawyers hosting a law blog is on the rise. Blogging and the use of social media makes for innovative marketing and business strategies in a tight economic climate.

Computers and mobile technology allow attorneys to keep apprised of legal developments for their clients, as well as passing litigation for legal precedent.

So what happens if you unplug, desync, and disconnect?

That’s what Keith Lee, author of An Associate’s Mind Blog, asked  his readers after an incredibly busy work week.

“It was almost with dread that I opened my RSS Reader on Monday morning. There were 300+ new blog entries, news stories, infographics, etc. waiting for me. There was a sense of obligation about the whole thing,” writes Lee.

Although, according to Lee, “With social media, blogging, etc. many people seem to think that a person needs to remain ‘engaged’ and stay on top of things 24/7 in order to be doing it properly,” Lee suggests just saying, “No.”

Unplug the Blackberry, stop monitoring emails on the iPhone, don’t update Twitter on the Android, and forget downloading the latest legal app on your iPad. Once in awhile, throw caution to the wind and mark as “read” every lingering RSS story and blog post.

Instead, spend more free time and weekends with family and friends, pursuing a hobby, or even (horror!) spend the time to cook a few healthy meals at home. Finally, get some rest and sleep well.

While Lee’s joie-de-vivre post is certainly valuable personal advice, it turns out he’s onto something professionally as well.

For decades, studies have indicated that sleep is essential to the consolidation of memories and learning. When you’re up late at night wondering why you can’t remember that research fact—after all, you just read it on your Facebook feed—it could be that you were spending too much time thinking about this information in the first place.

“People who take a nap after learning a new task, for instance, remember it better than those who don’t snooze,” reports Time Health.

Apparently, the brain is doing its best thinking while people doze off or are (seemingly) idle.

“The brain is trying to weave ideas together even when you don’t think you are thinking of anything,” notes Johns Hopkins behavioral neurologist and memory expert Dr. Barry Gordon to Time Health.

So if our brain is busy learning and needs to shut off for improved data processing, why are we so worried about disconnecting from the electronic world of law?

Give Siri, your virtual personal assistant a break once in awhile. Shut off your smartphone and computer. Believe in the benefits of technology without being a slave to it.

And, finally, never worry that “an idle mind is the Devil’s workshop” while scientists can continually confirm, there’s no such thing as a mind at rest.


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Commemorating Steve Jobs: Learning How To Live Fully, Work Passionately, And Hire Diversely From Apple

Even in this legal blog, Steve Jobs and his business strategies for Apple have made a profound impact (read here, here, and here). It is not surprising to find that after his death, the nation, the world, are both shocked and deeply saddened.

Thousands of commemorative articles have been written about his passing. On the White House blog, President Obama wrote,

“The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”

A particular speech by Jobs—the 2005 Stanford commencement address—has been circulating the Internet. In it, Jobs references his own death and mortality. Especially poignant considering recent events.   However, his comments on life and living from the same speech deserve equal attention.

For example, one of the stories Jobs tells is about dropping out of college. After officially unenrolling from school, Jobs began auditing only those classes that interested him. One such class—on typography and calligraphy—seemed irrelevant at the time, albeit fascinating, to all of his professional goals. Still, he pursued it.

It turns out, quite the contrary was true. Jobs mentions how this understanding of typography greatly influenced the aesthetics of Apple products when founding the company. Today, one of Apple’s undeniable legacies is the prolific use and popularity of sans-serif fonts.

In the commencement speech, telling these stories, Jobs hoped to inspire graduating students to develop those secondary and tertiary passions.

“Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition,” said Jobs.

Other than a heart-felt reminder of the lessons Steve Jobs has offered young minds over the years, his speech has practical applications to legal minds today.

Creativity is directly linked to successful leadership and productivity. And, even though law may be your field of professional practice, it does not mean your individual knowledge of hard sciences, history, or sports will not come in handy one day.

In fact, during the hiring process, those qualified applicants who spent four years eating, drinking, and breathing law, and law only, may not be the best choices for your firm.

Here’s why. When you take on an important patent-dispute case, you’ll need the expertise of that first-year who graduated with a degree in Engineering before becoming a member of the bar.

When your next client is involved in an invasive tax audit, you’ll rely on the knowledge of the ex-Art History major when reviewing the auditors notes on family-heirloom paintings.

Finally, when there’s a second oil spill near Alaska or in the Gulf, it’ll be the paralegal who spent a summer as a Derrickhand that will become an indispensable source of information for the case.

Steve Jobs—whose company is (ironically) iconically known for its clean, white palette—was making an important point about people with colorful backgrounds. Professionally, diversified interests are valuable assets. Personally, multiple passions help a person know and love life fully.

As an attorney, strive to achieve both. As a law firm administrator or hiring partner, seek more colorful lawyers.

And, the greatest tribute that can be paid to Steve Jobs today is exactly the above: learning from his extensive knowledge and expertise.


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