Your Greatest Skill is Mastery of Language

Monday, 30 January 2012

The most common method of thinking in the Western world is verbal thinking. We have a range of intelligences including numerical, musical, spatial, emotional, verbal and kinaesthetic intelligences yet it is verbal intelligence that we depend on most. We tend to think and express ourselves in words. Mastering the use of words is the most important skill we develop because acquiring further skills depends on our comprehension of language. A tremendous proportion of the early learning for an infant is in developing verbal skills - learning to speak, to understand speech, to read and to write. Whether a baby is brought up in Beijing, Sydney or Moscow it will surely spend thousands of hours acquiring expertise in its native language. He or she will become proficient with the amazing range, power, complexity and sophisticated subtleties of language. However, once a certain competence has been acquired most people stop developing verbal skills.

Studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between people's abilities with words and range of vocabulary and with success in their chosen fields. People who can express themselves clearly are perceived as more intelligent and of higher status. They are accorded greater respect. So why do we not continue to enhance our verbal skills? Why do we stop doing what we spent most of our early years doing? The trouble is that we take our verbal abilities for granted. Once we have mastered reading, writing and speaking we move on to other things. We have acquired the most important tool in our mental toolbox. We depend on it for all sorts of tasks but we rarely take time to sharpen it. It makes better sense to maintain, enhance and extend the tool. Here are some ways we can do that.
1. Get a good dictionary and thesaurus
Two of the most loyal companions on your desk should be a dictionary and a thesaurus. Use the dictionary to learn the meanings and derivations of new words you encounter. Also use it to check the exact meanings and spellings of words that you are unsure of. The thesaurus is very helpful whenever you are writing and need an alternative to a word in order to avoid repetition or to achieve a variation in meaning.
2. Read
In the modern world we are so busy with work and we are bombarded with so much information by TV broadcast, telephone and the internet that reading books and articles can be squeezed out of our agenda. Reading the works of really good writers is one of the best ways to develop our abilities with words.
3. Capture new words
There is a regular feature in the Reader's Digest magazine entitled, 'It pays to expand your Word Power'. It is sound advice. Whenever we bump into new words we should turn to the dictionary and spend a moment learning the meaning and derivation of the word. It is easy to skip new words and race on through the text so we need discipline if we are not to lose this opportunity.
4. Write, rewrite and edit
We all write, whether it is a text message on a cell phone, an email message or a novel, and we can all improve our writing. A good way to improve your writing is to read over what you have written and ask yourself these questions:
a) Does what I have written express exactly what I mean?
b) Will it be clear and comprehensible to the reader?
c) Can I make it more concise or more accurate?
5. Play with Words
Children learn language by playing with words, testing, experimenting, making mistakes and being gently corrected. We should adopt a playful attitude towards words and treat them as friends. Word games will increase your verbal dexterity and intelligence rating. Many standard IQ tests use word puzzles. Anagrams, cryptic crosswords, code-breakers, word searches, dingbats (also known as rebuses) and other verbal conundrums are excellent mental exercise.
6. Listen to Yourself
In just the same way that you critically review your draft writing in order to sharpen it you should try to do the same with your speech. If it is possible try to view some video clips of yourself speaking. This is particularly useful it you are rehearsing for an important talk or presentation.
Rudyard Kipling wrote, 'Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind.' They can paint amazing images, inspire and intoxicate. If you continually work on developing your range of words and skills with words then you will reap the rewards.
Contributed by: Paul Sloane, the author of How to be a Brilliant Thinker

BIALL Conference - Maximising the Benefit [4 ]

Monday, 23 January 2012

The View from Scotland

First time

I was asked why I attended my first BIALL conference and I am ashamed to say that the answer that sprung to mind was "I was made to go". This isn't entirely true and looking back I know it should really be "I was given the amazing opportunity to attend", although my flight phobia did not approve. I had just started a new job and was in their head office getting induction training when the head of department said she was booking me in for BIALL conference in Cork. I had heard of management level colleagues at my previous job going and knew they were always talking about the conferences so knew it was a great opportunity, and it turned out to be just that. I've been most years since then and it has helped with my professional development and just as importantly with networking. My career path has really shown that "its not what you know its who you know". So get there and get talking would be my advice! The first time is a little un-nerving but it soon becomes obvious that Law Librarians are lovely people (obviously!) and its worth making that first step and saying hello, soon you will be enveloped into the BIALL family. Listening at sessions is also important obviously and even if you only come back to the library with one or two action points that are applicable to your working environment it was worth the time it took to attend.

Keeping in touch

My current job is not a truly Law Librarian post, although there is a library I'm in charge of I do a lot more general administration tasks. So I thought maybe it wouldn't be so necessary to continue my attendance at the BIALL conference every year. However a few years on, I am now convinced that my attendance is even more crucial: to keep in touch with what's going on for other librarians; to get ideas of how to develop our very old fashioned library; to see what new tools our solicitor members may have access to; and, to meet and talk to new and old friends. Straying from the path of true librarianship is not as scary if you keep a foot on the original path and stay true to what you are. As with any role it is important to keep your finger on the pulse and know what's going on, not just for your own corner but across the profession - who knows where you could end up in the future, or what enquiry you may be given tomorrow.

Contributed by Maria Robertson

Posted by Philip Cable at 09:19 0 comments  

BIALL Conference - Maximising the Benefit [3.]

Thursday, 19 January 2012

New at Newcastle: A first-timer’s view

Above all, the opportunity to form links with fellow new professionals as well as meeting, face-to-face, people I’d previously only known from a distribution list or email conversation. These connections are proving vital, six months on, not only in my current role with Harvey Ingram LLP, but for laying the foundations of my own career progression.

There’s also the frisson of excitement in discovering new places. Simply walking to the Sage Centre Gateshead centre I crossed the Tyne, saw the bridges and was opposite the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.

Having suppliers there as well meant I could speak to individuals more informally and learn about new products from the angle that was relevant to me. The seminar programme allowed me to choose sessions to suit my interests and the area of the legal market I’m working in – including personal development, social media, specific corporate legal information, new products and the progress of some personal projects.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Conference to first timers, not only for its content, but for the atmosphere, networking opportunities and, particularly the friendly and genuine interest of others to find out about you and your role and the opportunities this provides for peer learning in practice.

Oh and the sandwiches were pretty impressive too!

Contributed by: Helen Marshall

Posted by Sally Peat at 15:24 0 comments  

BIALL Conference - Maximising the Benefit [2.]

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

BIALL Conference: I need to go!
Attending the BIALL Conference is all about opportunities.
There are so many it is difficult to know where to start but the main thing is that it contains something for everyone.
Probably the two most important reasons to attend are the opportunity to learn new things and the opportunity to meet people.
Put like that it sounds simple, but that one sentence covers so much.
The opportunity to learn may include:
  • learning more about what you are doing now and possible ways of improvement
  • learning how other people are approaching the same issues that you are facing
  • learning about future developments in legal information
  • learning about legal information sectors other than your own
  • learning about new products
The opportunity to meet people includes:
  • meeting people in a similar situation to yourself and exchanging experiences
  • meeting people from other sectors and other jurisdictions
  • meeting up with your existing suppliers and perhaps some new ones
  • meeting new friends and catching up with old
The conference is the one place where these strands are drawn together and all these opportunities are offered in the space of a few days.
I would urge anyone in the profession who hasn't made one yet, to either apply for a bursary or ask their manager about attending
So, if you can, please join us in Belfast.

Contributed by: Loyita Worley

Posted by Sally Peat at 12:16 0 comments  

BIALL Conference - Maximising the Benefit [1.]

Monday, 16 January 2012

Every year the Awards & Bursaries Committee approve a number of bursary applications for members to attend the BIALL Annual Conference and we look forward to doing the same again this year for the Belfast Conference. If you’ve never considered applying for a bursary before, and have assumed that it’s going to be a long and complicated process, then let me disabuse you right now of that notion, because it isn’t! The only essential criteria for applying is that you are a personal member of BIALL. Once you have satisfied that point, you need to demonstrate how the conference programme will benefit you in your role and / or your employer – which sessions in particular are you looking forward to and why; are there any sessions that specifically relate to aspects of your job and whether you are going to feedback on the conference to other colleagues unable to attend. Evidence of professional involvement (either in BIALL or in the wider professional sphere) will help an application, but is not a “deal clincher”, so new professionals in particular shouldn’t be put off from applying on that score. Even if an application is initially considered to be weak, the Committee will contact the applicant with specific questions designed to draw out the kind of information mentioned here – so we really do all we can to help applicants succeed. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Contributed by: Angela Donaldson

Posted by Sally Peat at 11:40 1 comments  

Brain the Size of a Planet?

Thursday, 12 January 2012

All of us who work in law libraries are used to having colleagues who we suspect don't struggle as much as most when they settle down to watch University Challenge. But we also don't generally have library users who have been described on the BBC as having a "Brain the Size of a Planet".

Well that's the prospect that the staff at the Supreme Court library face now that Jonathan Sumption has been sworn in as a Supreme Court judge.

But they can rest easy. Because amidst all the coverage of his elevation to our highest court a crucial and in my mind pivotal piece of information has been missed. What information you say? Well as a Bencher at the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple the now Lord Sumption served as a valued and supportive member of the Library Committee for many years.

Lord Sumption hears his first case today sitting on a panel of five in a shipping dispute case.

19/1/2012 - Update - We now understand that Lord Sumption was not only a member of the Committee but was Master of the Library chairing the Committee for 12 years!

Posted by Philip Cable at 08:37 0 comments  


Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Happy new year from The BIALL Bloggers!

Posted by Sally Peat at 12:41 0 comments