What Does It Mean to Think Like A Lawyer?

What Does It Mean to Think Like A Lawyer?

By Violette Bishai.
What does it mean to think like a lawyer? What makes a lawyer’s thought process different? The answer, as it usually is the field of law, is not a simple one-size-fits-all. The easy answer that quickly comes to mind when considering the thought process of a lawyer, is good memory. Although memory is important, law professors focus more on reasoning.

Law school teaches to think like a lawyer means “thinking within the confines of inductive and deductive forms of reasoning.” Law school emphasizes the importance of narrowing and intensifying an individual’s focus. The practice of this thought process allows for the ability to think defensively.

Even Aristotle states, “The Law is reason, free from passion.”

However it is important to note that thinking like a lawyer is in fact just a technique.  It is important to understand that others around you may not always be attorneys or colleagues.

Why is this important?

Because most people make decisions on gut instinct. They apply reasoning after a decision is made- not before. Therefore, it is important to know when to mute legal skills and be able to appeal to emotion.

Janet Crawford, a Neuroscience Business Expert, states, “Without emotion, we are biologically incapable of making decisions. Logic is often the last step in the process. The conscious intellectual brain steps in to produce a rational backstory to justify impulses generated in the murky corners of the unconscious mind.”
Therefore, it is important to know when to mute the legal thinking process and be able to appeal to emotions of your clients. This way, you are guiding them through a decision making process that transforms their vague or generalized emotions into concrete decisions. It is important to have a certain level of compassion in order to maintain comfort levels for your clients.

Whether you agree with Aristotle, that no form of emotion should be used in thinking like a lawyer, or if you support Janet Crawford, that it is in fact impossible to think without emotion being involved, take time to examine your own thinking process.

Which side do you usually lean on? Is it possible to incorporate both? Share with us other tips law school taught you.

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