In-house specialist lawyers and the schema created by the neocortex

The fewer the lawyers in a law department the more likely they are to be generalists. Yet specialization is the trend today, a trend that some investigators argue has neurological underpinnings. Research presented in the Wilson Quarterly, Vol. 31, Summer 2007 at 82, shows that the more people know, the more they can learn.

The initial learning of facts and events is recorded in a part of the brain called the hippocampus. As time passes, the brain may proceed to construct a permanent memory in other parts of the brain, notably the neocortex. Research suggests that the neocortex creates schemas in the brain into which newly acquired information fits. The more elaborate the schema, the easier the brain can make sense of, store, and retrieve new information.

Since specialists in an area of law presumably build richer schema (See my posts of Nov. 6, 2006: expert lawyers; and June 7, 2006: attention density and experts.), they can more quickly absorb and make sense of new cases, techniques and learning (See my post of Nov. 16, 2005: assigning lawyers to specialty areas of law.). Generalists may be plentiful, but specialists learn more quickly in their knowledge domain.

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