Unlearn and Rethink: Adam Grant's Important Lessons for Young Lawyers

  • 11 décembre 2023
  • Michael A. Cappabianca, Aird & Berlis LLP

In his bestselling book Think Again[1], author Adam Grant encourages readers to think like scientists by routinely testing our most common assumptions and beliefs. This means relying less on our often flawed instincts and heuristics, and instead making objective evaluations of even the most basic subjects we consider “common sense”. It means welcoming – and loving – the idea of being wrong, viewing it as an opportunity to learn rather than it being an attack on our fragile egos.

Can a lawyer think like a scientist? There’s a lot to unpack in this question, but let’s start by understanding how scientists think and maybe we’ll uncover the answer.

We all remember our high school science lab reports. The formula went something like this: here is the issue, this is what I think about the issue (the “Hypothesis”), here is how I intend test my thoughts on the issue (the “Experiment”), this is what happened (the “Findings”), and this is why my Hypothesis was right or wrong (the “Conclusion”). Of course, there are other important elements that I have excluded, like acknowledging the limitations of the chosen method(s) for the Experiment and its resulting impact on the Findings, but I hope most would agree that this is a fair generalization of a typical science experiment.

Once a scientist believes the Findings are conclusive on a balance of probabilities – borrowing a phrase lawyers are familiar with – the Findings endure extensive peer review and independent verification before they can be shared in any reputable science publication. When the Findings eventually reach the intended audience, they can be confident they are consuming credible content representing factual information – even if it’s incomplete. Testing hypotheses is a robust, ongoing process that must consider new discoveries that support or cast doubt on the initial Findings, and as new and improved experimentation methods emerge and become widely available. All of this is necessary in the pursuit of truth.  

Somewhere in between ninth grade science class and our decision to write the LSAT, we concluded that science (and math, to an extent) just wasn’t the field for us. We abandoned the thought of subjecting ourselves and our beloved hypotheses to our peers’ ruthless scrutiny and possible rejection. Unfortunately, our decision had some unintended consequences.