Without adequate study there cannot be adequate reflection; without adequate reflection there cannot be adequate discussions; without adequate discussion there cannot be that fruitful interchange of minds which is indispensable to thoughtful, unhurried decision and its formulation in learned and impressive opinions. – Felix Frankfurter
Becoming a lawyer will change your life, and not always in good ways. You will forever answer questions with, “it depends” or follow questions with requests for further clarification before committing to a position. Many lawyers take this “fruitful interchange of minds” a little too far… They can’t resist pointing out the other side of an argument, the flaws in logic, or the exception to the rule. It’s the reason lawyers often make terrible dinner guests, but that’s another story entirely!
One of the major benefits of becoming a lawyer is the disciplined thinking you will gain by attending law school. It’s a key part of developing “learned and impressive opinions.”
The Disciplined Mind
Having a disciplined thought process is an important skill when evaluating a problem, choosing among competing options, or devising a solution to an issue at hand. Howard Gardner, well known psychologist, author, and professor, discusses the types of thinking necessary to thrive in this century in his book Five Minds For The Future (source of quotes below) and agrees that the disciplined mind is a critical type.
“All of these educational efforts are dedicated toward the acquisition of the appropriate disciplinary knowledge, habits of minds, and patterns of behavior. Whether a student is learning general science at the beginning of adolescence, participle physics in high school, the principles of civil law at the start of law school, or the fundamentals of marketing in business school, the goal is the same: to eradicate erroneous or unproductive ways of thinking, and to put in their stead the ways of thinking and doing that mark the disciplined professional.”
It’s not the only important skill to have, Gardner reminds us, but it will prove invaluable in all areas of your life. Without it, people invariably rely on others to guide the development of their options and beliefs.
“Should they lack such disciplinary acumen, students will be completely dependent on others as they attempt to formulate views about their medical options, the political scene, new works of art, economic prospects, child rearing, possible scenarios of the future, among many other topics.”
Law school is simply one way to gain this skill. We forgotten over the years that lawyers and doctors were not always educated the way they are now. I wonder whether an apprenticeship might actually be a more effective way of learning to be a lawyer than the current system we’ve developed. It would favor a more experience based type of learning than a theoretical classroom based approach. Regardless, it’s important to remember that law school is only one part of your learning as a law student and a lawyer.
“In the last century or so, schools for the professions have mushroomed. One no longer “reads” law; one goes to law school. Medical education no longer takes place at fly-by-night trade schools – sought –after specialties can take up to ten years of formal training. Only qualified institutions can issue (or revoke) the all-important license. Increasingly, the training of managers and executives takes place at business schools and various executive education programs, with well-resourced corporations spawning their own educational facilities and tracks. So much do we take this posttertiary sector for granted that we forget how new (and controversial) it once was. Apprentice-ships and mentor-ships still exist – indeed, in some ways and in some places they remain as important as ever – but they are rarely considered a substitute for formal training.”
More Information on Five Minds for the Future (Video)
Below is some additional information about the five minds that Gardner believes will be critical for success in this century.
Description from Google Video: “Harvard professor, author and renowned psychologist Howard Gardner has written a new book entitled Five Minds for the Future. Join in as Lawrence R. Velvel, (visit Velvel’s blog at www.velvelonnationalaffairs.com) Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law interviews Gardner… The purpose of this new book is to determine the abilities or minds that will be necessary for success in this century.”