Tuesday, November 15, 2011
In his book, Thinking, Slow and Fast, Daniel Kahneman observes that the acquisition of expertise in complex tasks (chess, basketball, firefighting) does not involve a single skill, but rather a combination of many miniskills. A chess master needs at least 10,000 hours of practice to attain the highest level of performance. In music, novice performers spend hours studying scales and other types of patterns. It is not until a performer has mastered the basic skills that he or she can go on to what is really important in music--interpretation.
The same is true in law. (I have previously called these fundamental legal skills.) Our students need to master the miniskills, such as case analysis, case synthesis, rule-based reasoning, analogical reasoning, statutory interpretation, etc. in the first-year. Yet, the socratic method does not teach most of these basic skills particularly well. As I have stated before, we need to drill our students in these skills and our students need to work on them outside of class. Remember our students only have three years in law school compared to what a chess master or musician puts in.