Marybeth.Herald

Your Brain, Law School, and Law Practice:  Mind Your Stress Levels

I invited you in January to get to know your brain better.  If you have been following my relationship guide this year, you may know a bit more about how your brain learns, thinks fast, acts out of habit, and buckles under situational pressure.   But it is December – my last post -  and we have only scratched the surface of that complex jumble of neurons. Yikes, under this time pressure, I better get to an important subject – stress.  Stress and the Law Exams, deadlines, and holiday pressures, not to mention events in the larger universe can cause feelings…

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Marybeth.Herald

Your Brain, Law School, and Law Practice:  Be Aware of Your Surroundings at All Times

“Candid camera,” a television show started in 1948, was a forerunner of modern intrusive media.  The concept was simple.  The show’s producers ambushed and filmed ordinary people in embarrassing situations to the delight of a television audience.  Looking at human behavior in the wild often is both funny and insightful.  The show caught humans being human.  Many such shows are common now and indeed, reality television has made a fortune from the seemingly inexplicable desire of some people to voluntarily showcase a host of their behavioral flaws to a home viewing audience.       But back to the simpler times…

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Marybeth.Herald

Your Brain, Law School, and Law Practice:  Implicit Biases Come Out in the Open

Implicit bias is in the news and that is good news.  The recent publicity surrounding police shootings has brought that term into more conversations.  In this election season, candidates are even tossing the phrase into their debates. Let’s take a look at what it means and why it is especially important for law students and lawyers to understand it.  Here are some iconic pictures.  Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach (serving under President Kennedy) is confronting Governor George Wallace on the steps of the University of Alabama in 1963.  Wallace was refusing to allow the entry of African-American students, specifically Vivian Malone pictured here,…

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Marybeth.Herald

Your Brain, Law School, and Law Practice: Are You A Reliable Narrator?

I am a fan of mysteries.  So armed with this information, it may not surprise you to learn that I enjoyed Gone Girl (both book and movie).  For those who missed this mega seller, I do not think it is giving away too much to tell you that both Amy and Nick – the main characters - are “unreliable narrators.”  Although you usually trust the person telling the story in a book, a talented writer can successfully both trick and entertain the reader by breaking this convention.  The writer of Gone Girl dropped enough hints along the way to make…

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Marybeth.Herald

Your Brain, Law School, and Law Practice: Present and Future

August is a fresh start for students as well as graduates starting new jobs.  Before you lose that feeling of excitement, let’s consider how to plan for a better future in small steps.  The Power of the Present I have talked before about the brain’s inability to engage in accurate forecasting of our future selves.  It leads us, for example, to procrastinate because we think that our future selves will magically be able to handle the task later (on the weekend, after the weekend, tomorrow, next week - just not today).  Of course, that inevitably leaves us with the same skill…

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Marybeth.Herald

Your Brain, Law School, and Law Practice:  More than One Side to a Story

An Updated Story of Solomon Remember the story of Solomon, a wise ruler who figured out how to solve a tough problem involving competing claims to a baby?  (Hint: he made a threat that would be considered highly problematic under current judicial guidelines.)  Let’s play “You be Solomon.”  Read this story and decide who should get the baby: “This case is about a little girl (Baby Girl) who is classified as an Indian because she is 1.2% (3/256) Cherokee.  Because Baby Girl is classified in this way, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that certain provisions of the federal Indian…

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Marybeth.Herald

Your Brain, Law School, and Law Practice: It’s All in the Framing

Let me intrude on a lovely June day with some disturbing hypothetical questions (not at all out of character for a law professor).  Suppose that you were contemplating a risky medical procedure.  In scenario 1, the doctor tells you that, “Of those who undergo this medical procedure, ninety percent are alive after five years.”  Alternatively, she tells you, “Of those who have undergone this procedure, ten percent are dead after five years.”  Would you give the same answer to both questions?  Ninety percent alive is equivalent to ten percent dead so the answer should be the same.   But the difference…

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Marybeth.Herald

Your Brain, Law School, and Law Practice: The Lure of Truthiness

A decade ago, the comedian Steven Colbert invented the word “truthiness,” a word that means “truth that comes from the gut, not books” and “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts of facts known to be true.” Truthiness encapsulates how humans often make decisions – motivated by a gut feeling and then backtracking, if pushed, to justify the conclusion.  We often arrive at the answer we want to be true, sometimes at the expense of the answer that is supported by the evidence.   Our brain has developed many tricks to help us…

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Marybeth.Herald

Your Brain, Law School, and Law Practice:  The Paradox of Procrastination

To Do:  Anything But … (Fill in the Blank) You know you have a deadline but you dawdle.  After all, you have estimated that it will take you an hour or a day for that project.  So no need to do it now, when the deadline is further away than an hour or a day.  You might even tell friends that you work better when the adrenaline is rushing.  Time pressure, according to the story you spin, improves your productivity.  Maybe you make yourself feeling better by engaging in pre-crastination, the art of doing non-essential tasks early (laundry or email)…

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Marybeth.Herald

Your Brain, Law School, and Law Practice: Learning 101

How much do you know about the art and science of learning?  Okay – pop quiz: Which of the following statements is true? a. Students have distinct learning styles, including auditory, kinetic, and visual. b.  Humans use only 10% of their brain. c.  Beliefs about intelligence can affect a student’s learning. d.  All of the above. e.  None of the above. Think you have the right answer?  Read on and check. Why care about how your brain learns? If you are a law student or lawyer, you have spent (and will spend) hours mastering new subject areas.  It begins when…

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