The Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas-Dallas and the Texas Tech School of Law announced their collaboration in a high performance brain training program called SMART – Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training at the School of Law’s orientation earlier this month.
The program will provide approximately 180 first-year law students with nine cognitive strategies allowing them to maximize performance thanks to methods proven effective by more than 30 years of neuroscience research. The School of Law is the first law school partner with the center. SMART has helped more than 40,000 people to date across the U.S., ranging in age from middle-school students to senior citizens. By participating in SMART, law school dean Darby Dickerson hopes to provide Texas Tech law students with a skill set that will help them succeed in law school, their careers and their lives.
“When I saw the scientific evidence supporting the SMART program and saw the before-and-after brain scans of executives and other high-performers who’ve participated in the program, I knew I wanted to provide the training to our students,” Dickerson said. “I truly believe these skills, if implemented, can help them navigate a rigorous curriculum, perform better on the bar exam, be creative problem-solvers and reduce stress. To me, it seemed like a missing piece of a great legal education.”
The idea behind introducing SMART to first-year law students came from a law school graduate. Chad West, an Army veteran who earned his law degree from Texas Tech in 2006, completed the program and contacted Dickerson, encouraging her to implement it with her students.
“SMART completely revolutionized my law practice,” said West, who owns a practice in Dallas. “As a law student, and even as a lawyer, I had a hard time staying focused on the task at hand and processing the really important information once I read through massive amounts of texts. SMART taught me how to stay focused and how to hone in on the legal issues behind all of the endless verbiage our fellow lawyers bombard us with.”
According to the Center for BrainHealth, SMART focuses on the brain’s frontal lobe where humans process planning, judgment, decision-making, problem-solving, emotional regulation and other cognitive functions. SMART trains individuals through a strategy-based approach to more effectively assimilate, manage and utilize information and skills to strengthen overall brain function.
Training methods are based on clinical trials that compared strategy-training programs to memory training in a wide population, ranging from healthy older adults to those with brain injury or risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The students learned higher-order cognitive strategies – strategic attention, integrated reasoning and innovation – that can be applied to every day life. Individuals were also encouraged and equipped with methods to adopt healthy brain habits.
“Our brains are the one indispensable tool we need throughout life,” said Sandra Bond Chapman, founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth. “Up-and-coming law students at Texas Tech will need to be innovative on the spot, absorb dense and complex information and make quick decisions that will impact the future of our legal system. Through our partnership, students will be armed with the strategic toolkit to become dynamic, flexible thinkers to thrive in the academic environment and for their future careers.”
The students are excited to implement SMART to help them maintain focus and become not only better students, but eventually, better lawyers. First-year law student Taylor Guerrero said she left the seminar with strategies that will help her during her first year. “Law school is a daunting opponent for any student, so it’s best to go in prepared,” added incoming law student Lianette Gonzalez. “The Brain Performance Institute counselors teach you how to see the big picture while managing your time and stress. I left their seminars with an entirely new outlook.”
“In learning the fundamental limits of certain brain functions, we can begin to maximize their potential and efficiency,” said incoming law student Andrew Tingan. “The cognitive techniques we’ve explored thus far will pay dividends throughout our law school education and well into our careers as future practitioners.”