When You Teach, You Learn

In law school and in practice, everyone spends a lot of time learning by being a student—learning from professors and more experienced attorneys.

I recently started teaching legal writing at my alma matter and I can say with certainty that learning by teaching others is perhaps an even better way to enhance your skills.

Teaching makes you rethink everything

When you write a brief or argue in front of a judge, your strategy, content, and form generally all come from previous experience. In other words, you just do it because that is the way you do it.

When you teach, however, you cannot simply say “do it that way—because that is how you do it.” You need to be able to explain why you do things a certain way. If you cannot find a reason, that forces you to rethink your methods, which usually leads to either a better understanding or makes you do things in a new, better way.

In addition, your reasons and methods will also be challenged both directly and indirectly. Sometimes your methods are questioned directly. Other times, an individual may choose not to follow your wisdom and do things their own way—and sometimes their way is better than yours.

There are many ways to “teach”

Being an adjunct professor might not be up your alley, but there are other ways to teach others, and thereby, teach yourself. For example, you can volunteer at a local legal organization and pass on knowledge to other attorneys about your specific practice area. If you have the time to be a mentor to a law student or young attorney you can help shape their legal skills.

You will be amazed at what happens

Before I started teaching, I did not believe that I would be the one learning. Three weeks into it, I can already say that teaching has been incredibly beneficial to how I practice law.

Randall Ryder
Randall sues debt collectors that harass consumers, assists consumers with student loan issues, and defends consumers in debt collection lawsuits. He is also an attorney instructor at the University of Minnesota Law School.

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