Our approach is simulation-based. We simulate the experience common entrepreneurs encounter with legal issues and incorporate Science of Successful Learning techniques to maximize effective learning.
Each class starts with the students watching a short animated video about an entrepreneur who encounters a business decision.
We included a sample "first video" from one of our modules if you wanted to check it out. Just press play :)
But in terms of how Step 1 works in general -- every entrepreneur encounters business decisions all the time. But how many think about making sure they’re covered legally? Or much more common, even think there could be legal implications?
This is exactly the scenario many entrepreneurs face. A business decision needs to be made. And especially in the beginning, it’s typically “fast” because there are a lot of other decisions to be made. This isn’t a “should we merge with X company and hire an attorney to help us” kind of thing. It’s “we need a website, we need a logo, we need help marketing on social media, we need testers of our product, we need clients!”
And so what happens is the entrepreneur will make the decision but not consider legal implications. We discuss why this is more in Step 2.
Anything requiring understanding complex knowledge and skills, especially those with higher stakes (like legal) requires simulation-based training. Think about pilots and medical students. Even lawyers learn how to practice law using simulations (learning about cases and applying them to different set of facts). Legal is tricky and just learning facts like pros and cons of an LLC without context won’t help the entrepreneur respond to their own situations when they occur.
After the video, students put themselves in the entrepreneur’s shoes and determine what they would do in that situation.
Time to make a decision. How should you handle the scenario? If you’re in the entrepreneur’s shoes, what would you do?
This section starts with the students taking 5 minutes to write out what they can think legally that the entrepreneur should make sure she addresses.
Then segues into a class discussion to flesh out what the students think are the problems.
If you have unsuccessful attempts to solve a problem before getting the solution, your brain gets a deeper processing of the answer when it’s supplied. This is why experiential learning is so effective. So we do this two ways--first by having the student try to figure out the answer on their own, and then by having the class work together to figure out the right answers.
Your brain learns more when it has to work at it. We make the discussion difficult -- these students haven’t learned much about legal and might not know exactly how to respond when asked what “legally applies” to the entrepreneur’s situation. But having to think about it forces to embrace the complexity of the issue and gives them a greater understanding for how to “think legal.”
At the end of class, students watch a second video that shows what actually happened to the entrepreneur.
Following the class discussion, a second, 5-minute video is shown to the students. Check out a sample "second video" from one of our classes. The video picks up where the first video left off and effectively shows a “worst-case scenario” that happens to the entrepreneur.
It’s approach is designed to help the entrepreneurs “fail safely” and see all the things they “don’t know they don’t.”
It also builds on itself. Students may have thought they learned an issue from the first module only to see that while that issue applied, now another issue applies. For example, in one module, the students learn that the entrepreneur should include a warranty clause in future contracts. But in the following module, the contract includes a warranty clause but Templeton didn’t read it closely enough.
This ties into the other effective learning points. If a student is shown a solution before a problem (think: student reads legal info in a textbook or hears about it via a PPT presentation), then they don’t know if they actually don’t understand the solution. Instead what happens is they might overestimate their own competence. If you read and reread something, you assume you understand it. But when that issue is applied anywhere else outside that context, you can’t identify or solve that problem or opportunity.
This is a huge problem for entrepreneurs who might not understand how legal affects all aspects of their business or who might think they understand it enough to ignore it in general except for the parts they understand.
Our “worst-case scenario” video solves this issue. It helps the entrepreneurs see legal consequences they hadn’t thought of and acts as an “objective gauge” to show them that even though they tried to figure out the solution and might have thought they knew it, they actually didn’t understand it entirely.
One potential mistake students could make is to learn a solution and think it applies all the time. Because of the many layers of problem solving in general with entrepreneurship, it’s important to understand the nuances and be able to react accordingly.
Failure to recognize when your solution doesn’t fit hte problem is another form of faulty self-observation. It can trip us up when we fail to recognize a new problem that appears to be a familiar one but is actually something quite different.
After class, students will login to the LegalGPSu platform to take a 10-question graded quiz.
This is the graded assignment part. Following class, students will login to the LegalGPSu platform and find the relevant module section. Each class has a corresponding module.
The quiz asks the students to put themselves in the entrepreneur’s shoes. It then asks them questions about the facts that were conveyed in the first video. For example, “Have you set up an entity yet?” “What entity did you setup?”
This is a fantastic way for entrepreneurs to learn a lot of important legal concepts in a simulation-based environment. The quiz takes on average about 20 minutes, and if the student is not sure of the answer, the quiz has guides to help them figure it out if they’re willing to put in the time.
If you don’t have some type of quizzing, the alternative is to simply provide the solution via a PPT lecture or reading a textbook.
However, simply reading (and re-reading) the content in textbooks is ineffective. For one, it’s more time-consuming. Also, it doesn’t lead to durable memory. And worst of all, it leads to a self-deception. The student will have a growing familiarity with the text and feel like they’ve mastered the content. (“We know what we know.”). This leads to students not being able to apply facts in a different context, which is a pivotal piece of an entrepreneur’s success.
The most effective quizzes are ones that reflect what you’ll be doing with the knowledge later. It’s not just what you know, but how you practice what you know that determines how well the learning serves you later. “Practice like you play and you will play like you practice.”
After the quiz, the students receive results that give them context on what the entrepreneur should have done legally to avoid problems.
Once the students finish taking the quiz, they’ll immediately receive a set of results designed to help them know what the entrepreneur did wrong.
They should review the results and then write a short, non-graded reflection summary on what they learned from the class.
Having a “reflection statement” is a key aspect of effective learning. Without sounding too “meta,” reflection adds layers to the type of learning the student is doing and strengthens their overall skills. It’s another example of having to “re-trigger” the neurons firing in the brain and make additional connections to understand the nuances of Thinking Legal in entrepreneurship.