In the 21st century, success comes by following your Mom’s old adage: ‘Use your brain’-meaning your whole brain. One needs to succeed by thinking with the left and the right side of one’s brain, with intellectual quotient (IQ) and creative quotient (CQ), with detailed research and long term vision. In the 21st century, knowledge, examination, and analysis is not enough. Aspiring lawyers need skills that go beyond traditional skills or they risk obsolescence. The age of change has happened again: much like the industrial revolution of the 19th century, and the information age of the 20th century, a shift has happened and we have entered it to what
Daniel H. Pink calls the “conceptual age”- where vision, design, concept, empathy and creativity will rule the day. The left hemisphere can grasp details, but the right hemisphere sees the big picture. The left handles logic, sequence, literalness, and analysis. The right takes care of synthesis, emotional expression, context, and the big picture.
Herrmann International Group’s iconic four quadrant model provides a basis for this whole mind understanding. The upper left is categorized as analytical, and includes logical, analytical, fact-based, and quantitative qualities. Lower left is practical, and includes organized, sequential, planned, and detailed qualities. Upper right is experimental, and includes holistic, intuitive, integrating, and synthesizing qualities. Finally, lower right is relational, and includes interpersonal, feeling-based, kinesthetic, and emotional qualities.
According to a law review article by Susan Swaim Daicoff called Expanding the Lawyer’s Toolkit of Skills and Competencies, law schools have typically taught left-brained competencies, such as logic, reason, and analysis, to the exclusion of right-brained competencies. Some law schools, however, are beginning to change. For example, as reported in Van Zandt’s law review article Foundational Competencies:Innovations in Legal Education, some law schools have chosen to depart from the traditional first year curriculum. Harvard has reduced the amount of time students spend on first year law subjects and use that time to teach international and comparative law, legislation and regulation, and problem solving. Others have focused on the second and third years. For example, Stanford’s second and third year embraces expanded clinical opportunities. Additionally there are more team-oriented assignments with interdisciplinary focuses. Many schools now have greater emphasis on joint degrees, externships, and clinical opportunities. Northwestern’s changes have impacted its admission process and its offerings. The school stresses teamwork, communication, basic quantitative abilities, strategic understanding, project management and leadership, and globalization. It has also implemented structural changes: an intensive experiential semester and an accelerated J.D. program, compressed into a five-semester period.
We are in a new era. Research shows a decrease in traditional jobs for law students. Corporations are getting used to more for less. Data driven technology is disrupting nearly all aspects of the provision of legal services. This is, as we know, the new normal. Lawyers in the 21st century need great analytical abilities, research, and communication skills—they will continue to be problem solvers and will think like a lawyer. But, the most successful lawyers will also be innovative, conceptual thinkers, will be relational, empathetic, will know how to build and lead teams, and will bring both of their whole brain hemispheres to the table.