Start making legal training worthwhile


Yes, it is fun to get invited to observe a legal lecturer “in the wild” i.e. instructing in class. The lecturer is sometimes a bit nervous feeling observed. I appreciate their trust in me. Increasingly, I learned to divide lecturers into two groups.

Some lecturers are true teaching beasts. They enthrall their audiences. They engage the trainees in a variety of useful and powerful learning activities. It is inspiring both for the lecturer and for the trainees. Ex-trainees return to their job feeling great about having absorbed what they needed to learn. It was exhilarating, engaging and worth every penny and minute spent.

Unfortunately, most legal lecturers are no teaching beasts. They turn out to be incapable of achieving minimum learning effects with their trainees. Their lectures are boring. Lecturing is disappointing and frustrating for lecturer, audience and for those who financed the training. Little is learned in the sense that trainees would now deal better with some feature of their work.

Disappointments all around
I see such disappointing teaching outcome occurring at all levels. There is no correlation with course price tag; There is no difference between courses charging $/€ 100 or $/€ 1000  per candidate per day. Nor is there a correlation with legal expertise. Those with less expertise are sometimes even better at teaching than those with more expertise: the former understand better what it means not to understand a complicated issue.

Some individual lecturers deliver fantastic teaching for a low price. And prestigious firms or training institutes often deliver hopeless, yes even tortuous training. They confuse legal expertise with instructional expertise. Such courses  take place in luxurious settings and provide glitzy study material, tasty lunches, good networking opportunities and access to highly esteemed and expert lawyers. Everything is top quality. Except …. the teaching, both in class and online.

If lecturers feel the need to add external features like bells and whistles to the training to make it interesting, you can bet that the teaching itself is obviously not interesting. Hey, we are not in the entertainment business. Entertainment does not promote learning. We must achieve cognitively interesting lectures.

Is there an alternative?
What is holding back improvement? Training institutes and firms find it hard to acknowledge their deficiencies. Instead, they try to cover the disappointing experience, prefering not to embarrass colleagues.  We all like a break from the monotonous office, don’t we? Objective quality tests are never published.

Seriously, employers, instead of sending staff to a course, they could often send them on a cruise or on a skiing vacation. At least the “trainees” would return to work refreshed and motivated about (the fringe benefits of) their job.

Is there a solution?
Why is it so difficult for legal and tax specialist to lecture in an effective and motivating manner? Hundreds of reasons. But the common denominator is clear: (1) insufficient understanding of instructional design and/or (2) non-application of pedagogically sound instructional methods.

Seems logic: if you have a complicated brain illness, it is reassuring to know that the (wo)man doing the necessary operation knows something about surgery even if he or she is the best brain specialist of the planet.

In upcoming blogs I will analyze many of the challenges of teaching law. Join me in picking apart the causes for poor legal lecturing. We will find simple, clear and useful remedies. Such practice proven solutions are successful regardless of the medium used (class, online etc.). I promise that these blogs help you in making specialized training effective, efficient and engaging.

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