The Value of Reflection in the Law

In a 2014 study on how reflection improves performance, a team studied employees at a tech support call center in their first few weeks of a type of training. Dividing the employees up into a reflection group, a sharing group, and a control group, the team found that the employees did much better when they spent the last fifteen minutes of each day writing and reflecting on the lessons they had learned. In addition, the employees that spent an additional five minutes explaining their notes to a fellow trainee did 25 percent better than the control group!

We all stand to benefit from more reflection in our legal careers, and blogging allows us to both deliberate on a personal level, and learn from each other. If we attempt to “synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by [our] experience,” we can become more centered individuals, and more productive legal practitioners.

As law students, we’re often in over our heads with cases, rules, and holdings we might disagree with, or find shocking. As lawyers, we may not have the time to sit back and look at the big picture. Sometimes we can't remember why we decided to study law in the first place, or become lawyers, or practice in one area over another. Sometimes we don’t understand why we aren’t improving, or doing better.

The simple act of taking pen to paper – or typing out words on a screen – can help. I find that to reflect, I often need to write, because the process of writing allows me to refine and sharpen my thoughts, distill them down to the precise points I am struggling to list and separate.

As a law student, I can write my way through the material, legal questions: how the Osterlind v. Hill holding fits in with my worldview or my values, how different tort negligence cases we’ve studied connect, how the New York statute on the right of publicity resonates with me on a personal level. I can also write my way through the more personal: Why am I in law school? How can I remind myself of my goals, even when my day-to-day schedule becomes very stressful? What do I enjoy reading about, and what do I find challenging?

Blogging is a way of pushing these reflections to another level. A blog opens a path to sharing ideas, reaching like-minded people, gaining feedback, and, perhaps most importantly, building a community.

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