Human brain’s capacity to be creative and adapt to the challenges of modern society has exponentially grown. A globalised world brings with it vast amounts of data that must be rapidly and comprehensively processed and assessed. Accordingly, in order to adapt, individuals are bound to find the best instruments and methodologies to ensure objective and unbiased information processing.
Fortunately, some tools and skills allow the wielder to logically and even-handedly scrutinise data and beliefs. We will now dive into one such tool, namely critical thinking.
In this article, we will answer several questions:
– WHAT are the essential elements of critical thinking?
– HOW are its methodology and tools to be applied?
– For WHOM is this skill and tool suited? Notwithstanding a variety of empirical applications, we will focus solely on the benefits critical thinking brings for lawyers.
By and large, your general cognitive ability is undisputedly vital for your performance as a whole. However, it will be critical thinking – bestowing you with the capacity to challenge the assumptions, identify information gaps, and search for alternative explanations before drawing conclusions – that will provide you with a measurable competitive advantage in this increasingly globalised and intricate world.
The latest technological advancements have led to speculations on the impact technology will have on the legal industry. The exponential growth in information technology demonstrates that technological changes will transform the way our profession operates and how professionals make legal expertise accessible to society. Paradoxically, it took the advent of technology for us to be reminded of how critical interpersonal skills are in the workplace. The ability to collaborate across practice areas, cultures and disciplines, the art of compromising and accepting other people’s opinions (while putting oneself under the microscope) and striving to better communicate ideas, are all skills insufficiently addressed in law school (and even in practice, for that matter) but utterly valuable in the interest of both lawyers and clients. The legal industry is already presenting a widening skills gap, and there are no signs this will be alleviated anytime soon
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The interest in perfecting the legal industry is not new, but innovation, interdisciplinarity and human-centrism are elements that have only recently started being used. Relevant stakeholders have gradually understood that purely legal skills are necessary but no longer sufficient to ensure that lawyers provide legal services in a manner consistent with clients’ expectations, social needs and their own aspirations. The focus has shifted between skill-centred models, from I-shaped to T-shaped & +-shaped. The topic of current interest is the so-called Delta Model of Lawyer Competencies but, to be fair, rapid developments within the industry and beyond seem to indicate that this is also another, although important, stepping stone in the efforts to swiftly adapt this profession. That is why, for the scope of this article, we will focus on the Delta Model which, albeit built on the previous models, is nonetheless a pioneer in incorporating and giving equal weight to three categories of skills that, I dare say, are critical for lawyers’ success in today’s globalised society: substantive legal knowledge, business & operations (encompassing tech savviness, data analytics and project management) and personal effectiveness (including characteristics like entrepreneurial mindset, emotional intelligence and character). The beauty of this model resides not only in its plasticity but also in the vast spectrum of stakeholders benefiting from it, from individuals (such as law students and lawyers) to actual entities (law schools and organisations). Notwithstanding some concerns that all this skills-model hunt distracts us from real, more acute problems in the industry, the Delta Model managed to attract much attention and was generally hailed as innovative and thought provoking.
I am talking, of course, about technological and organisational transformation. Still, is it something real in Central and Eastern Europe (“CEE”) and, more importantly, should legal professionals be mindful of it? To put it shortly: YES.
Changing paradigms poses significant challenges especially in industries with more traditional mindsets such as the CEE legal one. The resistance towards innovation manifested by legal professionals here can be traced back to the nature of both law and legal industry. First, law is branded as a human science, for and about social interaction; I will further detail on the accuracy of this assertion. Second, for centuries now, lawyers have had absolute monopoly over providing and delivering legal services, which in turn eliminated any significant form of stimulation or constraint for the professionals to be agents of change. Change is upon this industry, whether the practitioners like it or not. At this stage, the only control they can exert is over the solutions to adopt in order to survive and thrive under these new circumstances. There is a myriad of options out there but what currently seems best fit for CEE would be professional upskilling and a change in the working methods.