After Action Learning (AAL) is a great way of learning, but many law firms struggle to implement these systems, which often degenerate into a form-filling/box-ticking exercise, with little reflection or learning and even less high level analysis and dissemination.
There are many reasons why this happens: the chargeable hours problem; hierarchical structures; a reluctance by lawyers to put their heads above the parapet; lack of time; a culture which blames rather than learns; and many more.
This is a short post to suggest that instead of continuing to struggle with AAL systems which aren’t taking off in your law firm, you think about piloting a personal AAL system or system of reflective learning diaries.
A personal system like this may not give your firm obvious opportunities to share lessons learned widely or retain learning easily, but the reflective learning by your practising lawyers will be worthwhile and much of their learning will hopefully be passed on indirectly through conversations, supervision and training sessions.
How would this work?
As the AAL system is personal to each lawyer, it can suit each lawyer’s particular learning style: notes could be kept as paper documents, learning diaries, online documents, auditory files, video clips, mindmaps, photographs, diagrams or infographics, whatever suits the individual. The lawyer just needs to be confident that their system allows them to create notes easily, that they are meaningful to them, that they are able to store and curate them easily and then find them later. Because these are personalised systems, there is no need to ensure that content is easily discoverable by others or that the system integrates well. The main concern when helping the individuals to design their systems, is to ensure security and confidentiality, so that the lawyers can be open with their thoughts in confidence.
Where to begin
- Start your lawyers off with some standard questions to reflect on (How did that go? What went well? What didn’t go well and why was that? What will I try to do differently as a result?). They can develop their own questions, meaningful to them, but most people appreciate a starting point.
- Give them some suggestions about when to reflect and record their thoughts (e.g. at the end of the day, once a week, at the end of each matter).
- Support them in suggesting all the different ways they could keep this information and check in with them to ensure that the system they choose is continuing to work for them and ensure they are finding value in it.
Are you a lawyer who has used reflective learning for a while now? It’d be really interesting to know how it works for you.
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I also talk about reflective learning in my popular “KM: The Works” training session. The next one is on 25th May 2016. Find out more here.
More about reflective learning and AAL in “Knowledge Management Handbook” and “Practical Projects” and read more in Managing Partner magazine.
For personal advice and help, visit TheKnowledgeBusiness.
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A few more interesting reads on the topic of AAL/lessons learned:-