Lawyers overestimate their instructional skills


Nobel-prize winning research indicates that  incompetent people overestimate their own capabilities; they imagine themselves above average competent . People who are really above average competent, are inclined to underestimate their capabilities.

Conclusion: The less competent estimate their capabilities much higher than those who are more competent (a.k.a. the Dunning-Krugereffect).

Know thyself

I regularly ask lawyers that lecture to assess their own teaching capabilities. Such lawyers are often distinguished academics, partners from the Big Four, the Golden, Magic, Silver or Red Circle, the Seven Sisters, whiteshoe firms and you name it …

One may assume such people being able to correctly assess situations and people. It is therefore surprising how difficult such top-of-the-notch legal professionals find it to correctly assess their own teaching qualities.

Most of them do not have a clue about what effective and engaging teaching involves. Their teaching is poor if measured by objective standards. Nonetheless they qualify themselves (there are exceptions!) as good lecturers. What’s wrong here?

Teaching is a complex competence

Law and teaching are two separate disciplines. Mastering each requires at least: 1. understanding its principles and techniques, 2. feedback and 3. lots of practice. Leaving one element out results in underperformance.

Effective and engaging teaching is a complex activity that involves managing at least as many variables as practicing law. But/therefore, any lawyer can learn to lecture in an effective and engaging manner.

It is challenging to get learners active, engaged and purpose driven. And it involves much more: Structuring legal content, creating practice opportunities, designing adequate support, etc.  But I still have to meet the first lawyer who cannot learn how to teach effectively, with zest and enjoy it!

What to do?

Lawyers with teaching responsibilities could consider to supplement their legal expertise with teaching expertise: helping others learn.

An effective route to mastering the teaching discipline would be using a teaching coach/trainer specialised in legal lecturing.

If you need assistance finding such service in your country, feel free to contact TrainWell’s global service to help you find a qualified coach/trainer without obligations.

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