GPSolo Magazine - April/May 2006

From the Editor
Paying Attention; or, If I Only Had a Brain

Sitting at a café in Buenos Aires last month, watching people and the world go by, I was amused by a child’s efforts to keep up with two older boys who had probably been ordered to let him tag along. At the next table were two old ladies, a hair’s breadth away from no longer being able to cope, puzzled over how to split the tab. And then it dawned on me: When we’re young, we’re trying to keep up with the big kids, and when we’re old, we’re trying not to fall behind. As I tried to rewire my brain to understand Argentine Spanish, I felt solidly middle-aged, just trying to peddle along, cobbling together what already reposed in my personal knowledge bank.

The half-life of whatever any of us learned in law school is probably not more than seven years. (I just made that up, but it sounds convincing.) What is important is that we learned how to learn, how to process information and develop theories, and how to put it all together. As practicing lawyers, we watched others try cases, copied their styles, developed forms banks, and leveraged the learning and knowledge of others.

Continuing legal education is far more than verifying those hours spent in a seminar about probate law; it’s a process permeating every waking minute of a lawyer’s life. The odd bits and pieces of information we pick up from clients, down to details about clients’ businesses and lifestyles, make lawyers veritable Jeopardy contestants. Ask a group of lawyers about something like house paint or plumbing, and you’re likely to get better information than you’d ever find Googling the topic. I know that I learned more about everything from clients, opposing counsel, judges, and interactions with just plain folk than I ever did in law school.

More than perpetual students, role models, and champions of “truth, justice, and the American way,” lawyers constantly act as teachers and information brokers—teaching clients, banging some sense into opposing counsel, educating juries and judges about how justice is supposed to be served, and simply going about our ordinary lives. Creating environments for others to learn, whether in a classroom of elementary school students, in the office, or in the august halls of justice, is part of our everyday existence. Our students range from our sons and daughters, to staff learning how to manage files, to Supreme Court justices.

On the eve of my first day in law school, I whined to a friend about my doubts while the soundtrack from The Wizard of Oz played in the background. At that very moment, the Scarecrow sang, “Oh, I’m a failure because I haven’t got a brain!” We listened on as the Tin Man searched for heart and the Cowardly Lion sought nerve. And somehow all of that came together as the essential components for a lawyer. Along that Yellow Brick Road, we try to make the links from data to information to knowledge and, finally, to wisdom.

How we learn and how we can help ot­hers learn is the focus of this issue of GPSolo. Judy Toyer, an attorney for Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York, took on the responsibility as issue editor, doing a remarkable job of bringing together a stellar group of authors to write about a broad range of issues dealing with learning and knowledge management.

Coming up in June is yet another issue of the Technology & Practice Guide, providing a look at the mobile lawyer and the ability to work effectively at home and on the road, as well as the latest in courtroom technology.

 

jennifer j. rose, editor-in-chief of GPSolo , is a lawyer and writer living in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico. She can be reached at jenniferrose@abanet.org.

 

 

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