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lawyerly ruminations

November 11, 2005

So I’m going through some of my archives, and seeing all this talk about “thinking like a lawyer” and how I’ll find myself doing so by the end of the semester, if not sooner.

I don’t think I’m thinking like a lawyer yet.

This means one of three things:

1) I am not thinking like a lawyer yet, or

2) I was already thinking like a lawyer before law school, or

3) I am thinking like a lawyer now, but I haven’t realized it (and neither has Mr. Angst)

(For the record, I did ask Mr. Angst if he thought I was thinking/acting like a lawyer, and he said, “Not really. Or not excessively.” I’ll take that to mean “No.”)

So when does it happen? I think this “thinking like a lawyer” thing must be like a magical transformative moment, where you’re reading and thinking, “Boy, that judge makes no sense!” and yet, in the next moment, you realize, “I see that the judge has completely failed to address the issue of consideration, and has automatically assumed that promissory estoppel will be sufficient to show the plaintiff can recover.”

For the record, the plaintiff can recover under promissory estoppel only in certain jurisdictions.

Does my knowing that mean that I’ve begun thinking like a lawyer? Or does it simply mean that I’ve grasped a legal concept (that, by the way, is a major bitch to wrap one’s mind around) and can take note of when that concept may or may not govern?

in other words, is thinking like a lawyer different from thinking like someone who knows how to apply certain legal concepts to certain combinations of circumstances? And if it isn’t, why do we make it sound so scary, “learning to think like a lawyer”? If they are the same, law is no more scary than any other discipline where you have to learn rules or definitions and apply the rules or definitions to questions on an exam or for a paper.

I’m a little worried, though, that the mere fact that I wrote the above paragraph means that I’ve already crossed the magical line and AM thinking like a lawyer, such that I can no longer imagine that students of other disciplines DON’T consider their studies in the same way.

Man. On rereading, I think I must have crossed the line. Because none of that stuff makes any sense.

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Categories: 1L, just me
  1. emily
    November 12, 2005 at 9:13 am

    in my opinion, you were kind of already thinking like a lawyer before law school. most law students do, and that’s why they do well on the lsat. to me, thinking like a lawyer simply means thinking logically.
    it also means being able to see all sides of an issue. “well it could be this, or it could be this, or it could be this…”
    the law is very rarely black and white. and even when there are is black-letter law, it’s not always interpreted the same everywhere! if you can look at an issue and have the capability to see it from different points of view, i think that’s thinking like a lawyer.
    you lawyer-like-thinker, you.

  2. November 12, 2005 at 9:51 am

    “On rereading, I think I must have crossed the line. Because none of that stuff makes any sense.”

    Not making sense? See, you *are* thinking like a lawyer! 🙂

  3. November 13, 2005 at 9:17 am

    Ha! You crossed the line so long ago you can’t even SEE it any more!

    But that’s a good thing. You’re highly analytical and logical, and are able to view the world dispassionately. You can step in and look at a situation up close, studying it in minute detail, and then step back again and view it in a larger context. That can only be a good skill to have.

  4. November 14, 2005 at 8:54 pm

    I have no idea what “thinking like a lawyer” means, but I am one, so there’s hope for everyone. 🙂

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