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Second Order Thinking

By August 23, 2021April 15th, 2024Law Practice Management, wisdom

In other blog posts I’ve covered some important lessons regarding how to create a better law practice.

Before I get to the next lesson, here’s a quick recap of those past important lessons:

Think Like A Chess Master

To gain big advantages in today’s world of “knowledge work,” you need to think like a chess master.

As opposed to a pool player.

So what do I mean by this? Well, here’s the key insight…

When you’re playing pool (or ”billiards”) it’s easy to see that striking one ball in a certain way will get other balls to move in predictable ways.

The cause-effect aspect of billiards is easy to understand. As opposed to a game like chess.

In chess you need to anticipate many different possible moves, not just the next one your opponent is likely to make. This is harder than playing billiards.

Playing billiards is more like factory work, with its easy-to-observe assembly line.

Playing chess is pure knowledge work. It involves thinking about many possible outcomes, all of which are harder to see.

Okay, now let’s consider…

Second Order Effects

One of the most challenging thinking skills involves something called “second order effects.”

The ability to solve problems at the ”second order” is an incredibly powerful tool.

To understand why this is true, read: .

Failing to see the of seemingly clever solutions is dangerous.

And its more likely when you don’t think things through to the second or third level.

Yes, thinking well is a very valuable skill today.


We lawyers have always prided ourselves as being well-trained, logical thinkers.

And that’s been mostly true. No doubt.

But, in today’s world competition amongst thinkers is much higher.

And, frankly, most of of the really great thinkers these days aren’t lawyers.

Maybe that’s something to think about.

Just saying…

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