If you have read my blog posts this week, you know I have focused on the new lawyers who just started in law firms. Many start with great enthusiasm and also great fear. I know. I had both.

Over time your first year lawyers will either become artisans or virtuosos.

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 6.59.48 AM

I thought of this idea because several young partners I coach have complained about the way the young associates who work for them analyze a problem.

These very bright associates seem to only do what they are tasked to do rather than digging deeper when confronted with an issue and trying to figure out an appropriate answer.

Some time ago I came across an interesting two part blog titled: Artisans and Virtuosos: Cultivating Adaptive Expertise in our Children–and In Ourselves.

The blogger discussed ideas shared by John Bransford in his chapter “How Experts Differ from Novices.”  In that chapter, Bransford outlined six principles of of “expert’s knowledge” and then examined their “potential for learning and instruction.” The very first principle is:

Experts notice features and meaningful patterns of information that are not noticed by novices.

Young lawyers who are artisans do only what is required. I think they must have been taught how to take the tests, including the bar exam.

Young lawyers who are virtuosos see meaningful patterns that cause them to dig deeper. I loved digging deeper and finding a solution others missed.

In Part 2 of the blog, Virtuosos: Learners in the Age of Meaning, Imagination and Ideas the blogger discusses Bransford’s description of routine experts in his informal essay “Thoughts on Adaptive Expertise:”

Routine experts (‘artisans’). . .tend to accept the problem and its limits as stated. . . Their approach to these tasks is primarily to find things that they have done before that can be applied to the new situation. They attempt to ‘get the problem solved’ as efficiently as possible and then move on to the next task.

How can we help young lawyers gain experience in seeing issues they are currently missing? In my work I have found that young lawyers develop their skills by doing not by listening.

So, what opportunities to learn by doing is your firm providing young lawyers?