being lawyers · book reviews · professional life

My Second [legal] Brain

When I fell back in love with reading, I didn’t know where it would take me. I read widely and often. Whilst I often battle between reading and having to do ‘adult tasks’, I still really try to find the time to read and, to be fair, there’s lots of different ways people ‘read’ now, including scrolling internet pages and listening to audio books!

Having said all that, it wasn’t actually reading that lead me to the concept of a second brain, but YouTube! (Yes, YouTube can actually be a force for good, when using the right ingredients and following the instructions!).

Who else suffers from information overload, just to have all that information go in one ear and out the other; despite the fact that you think it’s really important to remember and pooooof it’s gone?

If you haven’t heard heard of the “Building a Second Brain” or read the book “Building a Second Brain, A Proven Method to Organise Your Digital Life and Unlock Your Creative Potential” by Tiago Forte, this post might just be for you.

When I was soaking up some useful (and not so useful) content on YouTube about different ways to manage data, content, information, education and just plain ol’ being more productive, I found this wonderful answer to my issue of knowledge management. I’ve now seen it pop up more than ones and in various worlds that I peruse, including one of my favourite writers in academia (in fact, I think we might quietly be kindred spirits – she, too, is obsessed with the problem of notetaking in academia!).

There is SO. MUCH. DATA/INFORMATION. that we now need to absorb, manage, process and attempt to remember in our daily lives, let alone the information we retain to enable us to practice law competently and effectively. We have the world literally at our finger tips and in the palm of our hand in various devices. Add to this the constant development in law, cases and reform that we attempt to keep up to date with, only to read something and then forget it when you need it more!

Not to oversimplify it, but at it’s most basic form, the concept of Building a Second Brain (BASB) is a system based on four letters: CODE. C is for capturing new information (in your chosen way – digitally, analogue in a diary), O is for organising that new information, D is for Distilling that information and, finally, E is for Express which is simply to do something with that information.

Like any good habit, it takes practice to find the way YOU like to adapt the CODE system into your life.

For me, the Capturing data is one thing I’ve probably struggled with the most. I’ve always been torn between digital and analogue capturing of data and tend to flick between the two. I’ve finally resolved that the best way for me to capture real data is to write it in my Bullet Journal (yes, I’m a Bullet Journaller; more on that for another post, me thinks).

Since learning of the BASB system – I’ve discovered many different ways, and indeed methods, of capturing and managing knowledge. The beauty of this system is that you can evolve your own way of adopting this BASB system in a way that suits you and your personal preferences. If you’re digital, analogue, whatever, you can find your own way of BASB.

For those digitally inclined, there are some great tools you might use to manage your personal knowledge, using the CODE system. So far, I’ve seen people using:

  • Notion (I use this software, but for other stuff!)
  • Obsidian (what I use!)
  • EverNote (used to use, but not anymore)

Each of these options are amazing in their own ways and probably require their own [multiple] blog post coverage on the topic (let me know if that’s something you’d like to see on the blog in the comments below). In fact, there are plenty of YouTubers that have a variety of these methods for different parts of their CODE system. For those of you are YouTube watchers and learners, some of the best YouTubers I’ve seen talk about this method are Tiago Forte himself (the creator of the BASB system!), Ali Abdaal, Thomas Frank and even Bullet Journal creator, Ryder Carrol.

There are some really great videos comparing different approaches to personal knowledge management and BASB. There are videos about second brains in obsidian, Ali Abdaal’s own second brain system, Elizabeth Filips second brain in Notion, and much, much, MUCH more.

How do I use this system for my legal life?

Well, it’s simple, really. I capture new data into my system that I find interesting, useful and want to hang onto for future use. This is cases, articles of interest (remembering I’m doing my PhD!) and I even keep records of things I think are useful for this very blog. The case notes I like to keep are really helpful. I can tag or record certain key words that I will often look up, so that I can grab that information again as easy and swiftly as possible when I need it the most. I like capturing my notes in writing (Bullet Journal) first, as there is something about the tactile approach that helps me soak in that information and then I contain it in Obsidian. I personally love Obsidian as a platform; it speaks to my techy mind and for me, it works well and I love the visual aids that Obsidian provides (I’m a visual person!). Notion and Obsidian are great platforms to help you find and link connections between your snippets of data. When you’re later doing legal research or wanting to write a paper, these are invaluable tools!

With so much information thrown at us every day, the BASB system allows you to note it, organise it, reflect on it, and do something with it. Recording (and subsequently managing) the data in a way that suits your style and needs means you can efficiently note something down, return to the work your doing, without that dreaded feeling of forgetting that something you read that would be just perfect for your current work task.

Happy Second Braining.

2 thoughts on “My Second [legal] Brain

  1. Great post!

    I use:
    * Telegram with Feedreaderbot for INFORMATION INFLOW: all information coming in of an updating nature is processed in categories, priorities and timing. I have triggers to alert me to updates that need to jump the queue. I also use the latest ’email to’ feature so that no junk or newsletter updates to go my email. Email clutter is the worst!

    * Spike for EMAILS – reduces the clutter in an email trail. Have I mentioned email clutter is the worst!

    * definitely Notion to JOURNAL (incl Habit track) and CATALOG so many things! (even my wardrobe…). Thomas Frankly changed my way of using notion.

    * Trello with Butler Bot to manage PROJECTS and our life.

    and of course they all integrate.

    I would seriously be lost without this software.


    1. I had a sneaky suspicion this would be right up your alley, Tracy! Trello is super awesome for projects. I think that’s what I liked about Notion too; the fact that you could have Kanban boards, so I ended up moving away from Trello and onto Notion – it also gave me permission to adjust the visuals depending on my mood! If I want lists, I can have lists; if I want cards, I can have cards 😛 The real power in Notion is the backlinking, as is with Obsidian. I also love the future-proofing you get with Obsidian as it’s in plain text/markdown format – which is readable by SO MANY systems.
      Email clutter is the worst! I’m off to google Spike and Telegram right now! I love trying out new tech!
      I love my tech, but I always have my trust bullet journal as a back up analogue system; you know, for the apocalypse!


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