Neurobics in the Legal Industry - Martindale-Avvo

Neurobics in the Legal Industry

They say practice makes perfect; for lawyers, this can mean developing superior skills in research, witness interviewing, cross-examination, and negotiation. While you’re honing those skills that are fundamental to your expertise, you might neglect to feed your brain with new and novel experiences. This novelty helps the brain to grow, allowing you to become a better lawyer, better team leader, and perhaps a happier person.

A buzzword in brain health is neurobics: a simple but powerful technique that can move your brain out of its routine so you can flex your intellectual muscle. Just a few tips to flip the script on your daily habits can give your brain the refresh it might need. 

Why Exercise Your Brain?

Most people know about the benefits of physical fitness: it’s great for heart health, muscle strength, flexibility, and stamina. Keeping the body in shape means keeping it resilient and better able to adapt as people grow older. 

But what about brain health? Most people put less thought into the potential benefits of keeping the brain in shape. Once formal education is finished and people move on to careers, they might take the occasional continuing legal education (CLE) course but are too preoccupied with other priorities to worry about a fitness program for the mind.

Brain exercise isn’t just about gaining more knowledge – in fact, it might be as simple as using the body’s senses in new and unique ways. By proceeding with your daily life in a way that invites new experiences, you can bring new life into your neural pathways.

Music, brainteasers, mindful meditation – these are all ways to get the brain out of the worn neural pathways of daily routine. As you try something new, you essentially create new roads in the brain where neural impulses link together. You’re building a new map in the neighborhood, creating trails and scenic routes where before there was only highway.

Doing so can bring you greater happiness and make your brain more resilient. But you don’t have to find a guru or develop a crossword habit to heighten your brain’s ability to grow and expand. You can try an exercise program unique to the brain, called neurobics. 

What is Neurobics?

Neurobics is short for neural aerobics. The idea, perhaps metaphorical, is to supply oxygen to the brain’s neurons, much as physical aerobics supplies oxygen to the extremities and throughout the body. It’s supposed to help with mental agility and improve memory. The technique comes courtesy of former Duke University professor Dr. Lawrence Katz. 

Neurobics is a bit different from traditional puzzles, games, and other activities meant to keep the brain sharp. The philosophy behind neurobics is that you support your brain health by following two basic guidelines:  1) experience the unexpected and 2) use all of your senses daily. 

Some of Katz’s examples are ways to flip the narrative on your daily routine. He suggests brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand or getting dressed with your eyes closed. The idea is to make your brain perceive the world differently, step out of its exercise rut, and build new neural connections.  

Is Neurobics Effective?

Neurobics might sound a bit like pseudoscience, but there is some evidence it might work better than traditional memory training. 

2023 research paper described an experiment where 32 people with mild cognitive impairment had three weeks of neurobics practice, a break for three weeks, and three weeks of a traditional brain exercise program. There was improvement in both subjective and objective memory as a result of the neurobics.

In the study, the neurobics practice involved sessions where the senses of smell, taste, sight, hearing, and touch were individually stimulated, and one session of an integrated sensory experience. The traditional brain exercise program included psychoeducation, drawing and coloring, singing, paper folding, calculation games, and photo hunting.

Can Neurobics Help You in Legal Practice?

Neurobics might help to improve memory and to find novelty in day-to-day legal practice. As you’re writing a legal brief or meeting with a new client, neurobics might allow you to see these experiences with fresh eyes. You might find you’re more present and engaged, simply because dislodging your routine forces you to pay attention.  

This might help you to develop better client relationships, write better briefs, and even recall important details in a negotiation without flipping through your notes. Neurobics might also improve your mental health as, by definition, you’re experiencing your world in a new way and forcing your brain to think and respond differently. 

Some Neurobics Exercises for Lawyers

Dr. Katz didn’t write a handbook specifically for lawyers, but there are many ways you can use his theories to stretch your brain as you’re practicing law. You can do some of these on your own or engage colleagues or team members to try them out with you.

  • Take a different route to the office every day. Better yet, change your mode of transportation, from driving to cycling or from taking the subway to walking.
  • Write with your nondominant hand. You might want to try this when you’re not in an important setting like a client meeting and your notes must be legible.
  • Learn a new language one word at a time. Alternatively, learn a new word in your native tongue and try to use it in conversation. 
  • Plan monthly firm field trips to try a new experience. Consider asking each member of your team to suggest something they have never done before, like indoor rock climbing or a trip to a butterfly park.

You can even make practicing neurobics its own neurobics – try to think of new ways to come up with new ways of doing things. 

Build Your Practice With Martindale-Avvo

As you’re beginning to see the world differently, consider new ways of building your legal practice. Martindale-Avvo partners with small firms and solo practitioners who need customized solutions to grow their businesses. Contact us today to see what we have on offer. 

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