2 min read

Fringe Legal #6: curse of the expert beginner / Crafty Counsel is now free / biases

Here are four things that were worth sharing this week:

1. Think

The Dreyfus model outlines five stages of skill acquisition. It’s a valuable model to keep in mind when you are learning how to learn. A topic few people focus on, which is perplexing because plenty of individuals are focused on learning new things, but haven’t researched the most effective way to learn them.

In his paper, Stuart Dreyfus outlines five development stages:

  1. Novice
  2. Advanced Beginner
  3. Competent
  4. Proficient
  5. Expert

I was reminded of this work as I stumbled upon a post by Erik Dietrick discussing why developers stop learning, which adds a new stage called “expert beginner.”

The Advanced Beginner stage is the last one in which the skill acquirer has no understanding of the big picture. As such, it’s the last phase in which the acquirer might confuse himself with an Expert.

This is similar to the Dunning Kruger effect, a cognitive bias where individuals with low ability overestimate their ability. (See more on biases below).

The key difference here is that an expert beginner mistakenly thinks that they have reached mastery. Erik’s subsequent posts outline the negatives of having expert beginners in your organization.

Therefore, you must create a culture of curiosity and one where it is welcome for individuals to proclaim, “I don’t know.” This is one part of achieving understanding. It is undoubtedly challenging because real understanding requires layers of depth, and counterintuitively requires one to go slow to get there. Thinking hard requires significant effort, it requires you to challenge unsatisfactory answers, and it requires figuring out different proofs of the same thing.

As I’m learning rapid and substantial progressions requires at least two core components: (1) Learning how to learn (allowing you to go wide), and (2) learning how to understand (allowing you to go deep).



Cognitive biases lead us to create our subjective realities. They allowing us to battle the curse of "too much information", ensure we can act fast, and giving meaning to things where none exists.

Being aware of these allow you to be more aware of your blind spots. The article below linked below provides a handy cheat sheet.

Read the article here



Ben White is the founder of Crafty Counsel. He has interviewed 100s of lawyers and in-house counsel over the past 18 months. I spoke with him during the summit to distil some of key learnings from the conversation.

Watch the interview / listen to the interview

4. DO


Earlier this month, Crafty Counsel announced that they are making all of their content available for free!

If you haven't heard of Crafty Counsel before (then watch/listen to the interview above), they create content to help legal professionals connect with and learn from each other.

Sign up here

Until next time. Stay well.


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