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September 08, 2014


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Jeff Lipshaw

Ray, your characterization of Western-style thought is spot-on, but we don't need to go to Asia to highlight the differences between lawyers and others in terms of cognitive tendencies. Nor is the pedagogical task either/or.

For the last week, and continuing for the next several, I will be pounding on my 1Ls (in contracts) precisely what Elizabeth Mertz describes: your job is to translate narratives into legal theories, themselves made up of a series of "if-then" propositions, where the presence in the narrative of the conditions requires, under the legal rule of inference, a particular legal consequence. So if the context of the dispute is whether there was, for example, a contract, and the question is whether there was a promise, you win the artificial linguistic game of litigation by persuading an adjudicator that there was present within the narrative (1) a manifestation (2) justifying another in believing (3) that a commitment was made.

On the other hand, I spent the first two classes in the upper level Entrepreneurship, Venture Capital, and the Law talking to the students about (and playing some cognitive games to show) that "thinking like a lawyer" in the manner I just described is likely to be a ship passing in the night with one's entrepreneur/founder client.

One solution to all this is to have the students get at least some instruction from teachers like you who have seen "law in action" (to take another phrase from Stewart Macaulay, Elizabeth Mertz, and others of that school of thought).


Side note for future uses of the scene: the actor that played the gladiator has Down syndrome.

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