On thinking Like a Lawyer
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On thinking Like a Lawyer

Here's a great article I just read from Princeton Law School...Hope you enjoy.

“On Thinking Like A Lawyer” Anne-Marie Slaughter (Used by permission of Harvard Law School;  first printed in Harvard Law Today May, 2002) 
You are now all well on your way to that magical state that is the end-product of your first year in law school: thinking like a lawyer. So what have we taught you? 
Thinking like a lawyer means, in the first instance, thinking with care and precision, reading and speaking with attention to nuance and detail. It means paying attention to language, but also understanding that words can have myriad meanings and can often be manipulated. It thus also means paying attention to context and contingency. That is all part of the lawyer’s craft, or art, which is important both in itself and as a means to larger ends. 

Thinking like a lawyer also means that you can make arguments on any side of any question. Many of you resist that teaching, thinking that we are stripping you of your personal principles and convictions, transforming you into a hired gun. On the contrary, learning how to make arguments on different sides of a question is learning that there are arguments on both sides, and learning how to hear them. That is the core of the liberal value of tolerance, but also the precondition for order in a society that chooses to engage in conflict with words rather than guns. It is our best hope for rational deliberation, for solving problems together not based on eradicating conflict, but for channeling it productively and cooperating where possible.  

Thinking like a lawyer also means exercising judgment, distinguishing among those arguments, sifting good from bad. Just as you will come to understand that there are arguments made in good faith on opposing sides, you must also learn to reject some arguments, or at least to choose among them. Arguments may be bad because they are illogical, because they do not fit the facts or the law, because they are silly or inconsequential. They may also be bad because they promote bad policies, or because they reflect values that we condemn: racism, degradation of human dignity, greed -- you fill in the blanks. Learning to think like a lawyer means learning to reject some arguments and to embrace others, and to know and be able to articulate why.  

Thinking like a lawyer means combining realism with idealism. It means believing in the possibility and the desirability of both order and justice, and in the capacity of the law to help us achieve them. But it also means knowing the full range of human conduct, and understanding that grand principles will remain paper principles unless they are implemented with an eye to human incentives. Nevertheless, in the end the idea of law, and the ideals that it stands for, is what lawyers represent. It is much harder to be an idealist when  you have all the reasons to be a cynic. 

One of my colleagues at Chicago ends her first year civil procedure class by saying: “Sometimes in the first year of law school, people learn to think like lawyers, but to be a little less like people. You’ve learned the first of those things. You shouldn’t let us teach you the second.” I disagree. There is no dichotomy here. Thinking like a lawyer is thinking like a human being, a human being who is tolerant, sophisticated, pragmatic, critical, and engaged. It means combining passion and principle, reason and judgment. 

You are all well on your way to thinking like lawyers. It’s been both a pleasure and a privilege to help get you there. 

14 Comments to On thinking Like a Lawyer:

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Julian on Sunday, March 27, 2016 11:47 AM
Yes, I agree with this that. Think as a Lawyer. And thinking with consideration and exactness, perusing and talking with thoughtfulness regarding subtlety and point of interest. It implies paying consideration on dialect, additionally understanding that words can have heap implications and can regularly be controlled. It in this manner likewise implies paying consideration on connection and possibility. That is all part of the legal counselor's specialty, or craftsmanship, which is critical both in itself and as a way to bigger closures. Thank you so much.
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fake gucci on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 11:46 PM
Nevertheless, in the end the idea of law, and the ideals that it stands for, is what lawyers represent.
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Nevaeh on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 2:37 PM
Hmm..correct totally! Furthermore understanding that words can have pile suggestions and can frequently be controlled. It in this way in like manner suggests paying thought on association and probability. That is all part of the legitimate guide's claim to fame, or craftsmanship, which is basic both in itself and as an approach to greater terminations. Thanks!
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www.kainfamilylawtoronto.com on Thursday, December 22, 2016 10:27 PM
Adopting the thought process of a legal counselor implies joining authenticity with optimism. It implies having confidence in the likelihood and the attractive quality of both request and equity, and in the limit of the law to help us accomplish them.
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www.planyourwill.ca on Monday, February 13, 2017 10:17 PM
That is the center of the liberal estimation of resilience, additionally the precondition for request in a general public that participates in struggle with words instead of weapons.
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