joy of teaching

Teaching makes me (and others) happy

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it takes to learn litigation support — I mean really learn it. I am in the process of teaching one of our legal secretaries at the office who wants to learn more about litigation support tasks in the hope that she can help out when our workload gets “crazy busy”. It is only “pretty busy” right now. I definitely have a full workload, but she is a really good student and it is a pleasure for me to share my knowledge. She just soaks it all up.

Similar to when I hosted the student interns from the Georgetown paralegal program two summers in a row (I wrote about it here and here), she is sitting at my desk right next to me, using my keyboard and mouse to complete the tasks that are part of my workload. She retains much of what she learns from one day to the next, which is fantastic. She doesn't take many notes. This usually makes me nervous, but not in her case. She has begun to finish my sentences, which I always enjoy.

Having her there with me on a daily basis right now is reminding me over and over about how the litigation support newbie brain tries to connect the many dots. I actually find it to be a lot of fun watching her as she tries to figure out the solution on her own. When I am training someone hands-on, I have a tendency to let them struggle a little because I think it is good for them to test their critical thinking skills. She makes me laugh because she will raise her left hand and maybe even point her finger, which is her signal to me that I should not provide the answer — she wants to try and figure it out on her own. Little does she know that I had no intention of giving away the answer. Ha!

One thing I know about learning litigation support is that repetition is a key factor. Performing the same tasks in slightly different scenarios and applying a slightly different solution each time is the best way to really learn in this field. There are many personal preferences and sometimes it isn't really a preference, but more of a situation where you learned it one way and you keeping doing it that way until you watch someone do it differently and ask “wait, what did you just do?”

I am learning a few things from her because she is very comfortable with technology and she has taught herself many things. We were working in Excel the other day and I was about to show her one of the ways we could accomplish the task at hand. Instead she just starts clicking away. She was either anticipating that I was going to say “do this” or she assumed she knew what to do. I don't mind when a student does this while I'm training them if the person has really good instincts. On the other hand, if the trainee is more of a non-listener and talks over me while I'm trying to teach, then I get a little annoyed. Anyway, in this scenario we talked through her way and my way and realized that my way was a few less steps and it resolved more of the variables that needed to be addressed. However, I told her that it isn't a matter of being right or wrong. The solutions can definitely be very subjective.

Recently, I have been spending many hours in the evenings and weekends recording tutorials for my hands-on “Blueprint” training program. I am always very aware of the fact that I need to break things down as much as possible because learners are at different levels of comprehension, different levels of comfort with technology, and each has different previous experiences in their career — their frame of references are different. It can be difficult for me to cover all of the angles and I can predict that I will not succeed every time. Luckily, I can always re-record a video tutorial if the feedback is that more students than expected are struggling with the comprehension.

As many of you know, I love the field of litigation support and I love working with litigators (most of the time). I am also a geek and I get a kick of out working with data and databases. Yup, call me crazy. But my main source of joy is teaching others. I have really enjoyed the past few weeks at my day job because I have had the opportunity to watch another human being grow and learn and get excited when the light bulb goes off and the dots begin to get connected. It is really awesome. There are even high-fives and happy dances in my world of teaching!



  1. Another great post Amy. For the past 12 months, I’ve been doing something similar 2-3 days a week with a person who was seconded to us from the helpdesk. A challenge that I find is that nothing that we do is particularly complicated, however there are many subtle and innocuous little steps that mean you need to have quite a solid theoretical and practical knowledgebank under your belt before you can ‘release them into the wild’.

    As fate would have it, just as my person was getting a good handle on everything they departed the firm.

    In Australian lawfirms, we have a kind of ‘super secretary’ called WP, and it is always a pleasure when we overlap with WP as they are very competent with Word, and Acrobat and sometimes also with Excel, however they tend to have an excellent aptitude for technology and so can soak things up very quickly and be quite diligent and proficient.

    I also find training to be very rewarding, particularly as the trainee has light bulb moments where the dots are connected.

    1. Wow, that’s a bummer that the person left. Does WP stand for something? Back in the 90’s we used to have Word Processing departments with people like you describe as WP. They would do overflow work and have some specialities. Some firms still have this department.

      I am not surprised that you enjoy teaching based on our previous conversations.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Thanks for all of your tips Amy!! They are so insightful! It is hard to find a great teacher but I have found one and I am enjoying talking with her every day! She has been in the game for a while also and is so knowledgeable, I would love to just touch her and absorb everything at once, but alas, it does not work that way. Thanks again and keep up the good work in teaching others, knowledge is power. I will be watching all the videos, reading and everything necessary so maybe I can please my mentor as well. Having two mentors is totally awesome!! Have a great day!

      1. Yes, I love the interaction approach as well, helps with knowing when to be stern or what humor might lie in the conversation/teaching.

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