Every laws school promises to teach its students to think like lawers
But what does that mean?
What does it mean to think like a lawyer?
At the Texas A&M School of Law,
we break the process of thinking like a lawyer into discrete steps
and teach those steps to our students explicitly.
Let’s look at a very simple example,
a problem that requires no prior legal experience to understand.
A jogger runs along a beach past a sig
n that says, “$100 fine for littering.”
A few steps past the sign, the jogger pauses to eat a banana.
When he’s done, he throws the peel on the ground.
A police officer sees the jogger drop the peel.
She recalls that her supervisor did not issue a littering ticket to
to a person who poured coffee on the ground.
But the supervisor did issue a ticket to
someone who threw a candy bar wrapper on the ground.
Should the police officer ticket the jogger?
Legal reasoning, or thinking like a lawyer, is rule-based reasoning.
Lawyers always look for the rule that governs the conduct in question.
Here, the rule is simple.
$100 fine for littering.
But what does”littering” mean?
Here, “littering” is potentially ambiguous.
When part of a rule is ambiguous,
lawyers look to see how the rule was applied in prior situations.
Prior situations are called precedents.
By comparing the facts of the current case to the facts of precedents,
lawyers can predict how the rule will apply in the current case.
This process of comparison is called analogical reasoning, or reasoning by analogy.
“Analogical reasoning” is just a fancy term for something
we all do every day
comparing two or more things to see how similar they are.
Here, we have two precedents that can help us understand what”littering” means.
In the first case, someone who poured coffee on the ground was not ticket for the littering.
In the second case, someone who threw a candy bar wrapper on the ground was ticketed for littering.
So here’s the point of comparison.
Is a banana peel more like coffee, or more like a candy bar wrapper?
If the banana peel is more like the coffee,
then the officer should not issue a ticket.
But if the banana peel is more like the candy bar wrapper,
then the officer should issue a ticket.
How would a lawyer compare these three items?
By figuring out what attributes define them.
Lawyers call such attributes “factors.”
Let’s see what attributes, or factors,
we can come up with for these three items.
To keep track of the factors,
we’ll use a device I call the case grid.
Let’s list our three cases
Coffee candy wrapper and banana along the top.
We’ll list our factors down the left column,
and we’ll leave the last row for the result ticket or no ticket.
We already know the answer in two of the cases,
so we can fill those in now.
We’ll leave a question mark for the banana peel.
A creative lawyer will come up with as many factors as possible
But in the interest of time, let’s limit ourselves to just three.
Our first factor, or point of comparison, will be liquid or solid.
The coffee is liquid, but the candy wrapper and banana peel are solid.
Our second factor will be whether the item is natural or artificial.
The answer is easy for the wrapper– artificial–
and the peel– natural.
But what about coffee?
Coffee beans are natural,
but brewed coffee is a manufactured product.
So coffee could go either way.
We’ll put a question mark for coffee.
Our last factor will be whether you would put the item in a trash can.
A candy wrapper?
And a banana?
So now we have three factors on which to compare the three items.
We don’t have enough information on the second factor, natural or artificial, for coffee.
因为要素二 咖啡是天然的或人造的 我们没有足够信息
So let’s disregard that factor.
Sorting, ranking and discarding factors is another think like a lawyer skill.
另一个“像律师一样思考”方法是要素整理 排序 排除
That leaves two factors.
and on both, the peel is more like the wrapper.
Because the peel is more like the wrapper on the two factors.
Analogical reasoning dictates that it will be more like the wrapper in the result, too.
Therefore, the officer should ticket the jogger.
That, in a nutshell, is how a lawyer would solve a problem like this.
Identify the rule, use precedents resolve ambiguities in the rule,
use analogical reasoning to compare the precedents,
with the current case, and come up with an answer.
Now, lawyers and most people could solve this problem in their heads in an instant,
but that’s not the point.
The point is this.
If you have a teacher
who breaks the process of thinking like a lawyer into two discrete steps,
you will learn the process much more quickly.
That’s exactly what we do at Texas A&M.
I’m Professor John F. Murphy,
我是John F. Murphy教授
And, this is the Texas A&M School of Law.
“香蕉皮”事例问题出自《法律分析：100题精练》一书 该书由Cassandra L. Hill和Katherine T. Vukadin编著
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