Monday, 31 July 2017

Critical... Thinking Allowed

Remember in elementary school when your teacher taught you that every student learns best through a specific teaching style? Some students were visual learners, some auditory learners, some kinesthetic learners, and so on. Of course, I was stubborn and didn’t believe in this sort of thing so I declared myself to be a “just show me how to find the answer” type of learner. Yeah, I was that kid. Years later, as a summer student, the concept of teaching styles has become relevant once again – but this time I can appreciate the lesson.

The concept of teaching styles has become relevant once again...

At McCague Borlack, we students are given a diverse set of assignments, most of which we didn’t have a chance to experience in law school. Fortunately, we have a team of lawyers who are happy to help us continuously improve our work. Naturally, each lawyer has their own teaching style and preferred method to show us how we can increase the quality of our work. Here are some of the teaching styles that we have experienced so far:

The Socratic Method:

Whenever I felt uncertain about a task, I would ask the assigning lawyer for clarification. Below is an example of how this conversation would go with a Socratic mentor:

Me: “In this letter I’m drafting, should I include XYZ?”

Lawyer: “Do you think the letter would benefit from XYZ?”

Me: “Well here are the benefits of adding XYZ.”

Lawyer: “Are there any drawbacks?”

Me: “I don’t think so.”

Lawyer: *Smiles*

Although this exchange may seem odd, the Socratic Method allows students to work through any issues on their own. Consequently, we develop a more comprehensive understanding of the subject matter than if we were just given the solution.

This method has helped build confidence in my work and has shown me that I already have the answers to most of my questions. But if I am still unsure, a lawyer will review my work when I am finished to ensure that we have a good product.

Thinking Out Loud

When it comes to editing our work, some lawyers sit down with us and walk through the needed changes. The lawyers utilizing this method begin by explaining why certain parts of a document should be revised. Then, they “think out loud” so that I can understand the thought process that helped them generate their solution. This method allows students to understand exactly why specific changes were made and what key points should be applied to the completion of the next assignment.

Track Changes

Sometimes the work I produce has minor errors so the revisions don’t require a long explanation. It can be a case where there is just a better way to phrase what needs to be said, or the structure of the document should be modified for clarity. Since these changes are simpler and easy for the lawyers to identify, they will use Microsoft Word’s “track changes” feature while they make their revisions. This method provides a visual comparison between my original draft and the revised version. It also requires me to analyze the changes to come to my own conclusions as to why the changes were made. However, if I can’t figure out why a particular change was made I can always get clarification from the assigning lawyer. There is certainly an art to drafting documents. By reviewing other lawyers’ completed documents, I am able to better understand where to set the bar for my own progress.


Mistakes are part of the learning curve. The lawyers are happy to mentor the students and help us understand how we can continue to improve our work. And we appreciate it, no matter the style.

Yousef E.