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The Language of Law School Learning to “Think Like a Lawyer” by Elizabeth Mertz.

Learning to Think Like a Lawyer

This is a study whose genesis dates back to the day I first took my seat in a Contracts classroom as a first-year law student, and that came to fruition as I for the first time taught Contracts to first-year law students. Having participated in both ends of the process has added depth to my understanding of the law school experience.

As a first-year student, I took notes in my Contracts class in two columns; the first kept track of the concepts my professor was endeavoring to impress on us, and the second was a running anthropologist’s commentary on the studies that someone should do to investigate the social and linguistic processes at work in contract law—and in legal reasoning generally. This work is an initial effort to investigate the distinctive shape of a core U.S. legal worldview, empirically grounded in the study of the language through which law students are trained to this new approach.

During the first year of law school, students are reputed to undergo a transformation in thought patterns—a transformation often referred to as “learning to think like a lawyer.” Professors and students accomplish this purported transformation, and professors assess it, through classroom exchanges and examinations, through spoken and written language. What message does the language of the law school classroom convey? What does it mean to “think” like a lawyer? Is the same message conveyed in different kinds of schools, and when it is imparted by professors of color or by white women professors, and when it is received by students of different races, genders, and backgrounds? This study addresses these questions, using fine-grained empirical research in eight different law schools. Source: Learning to Think Like a Lawyer.

Contents of Learning to Think Like a Lawyer

Notes on Transcription xvii
I INTRODUCTION of book Learning to Think Like a Lawyer
1. Entering the World of U.S. Law 3
2. Law, Language, and the Law School Classroom 12
3. Study Design, Methodology, and Profile 31
4. Learning to Read Like a Lawyer: Text, Context,
and Linguistic Ideology 43
5. Epistemology and Teaching Styles:
Different Forms, Same Message 84
6. On Becoming a Legal Person: Identity and the Social Context
of Legal Epistemology 97
7. Professorial Style in Context 141
8. Student Participation and Social Difference: Race, Gender,
Status, and Context in Law School Classes 174
9. Legal Language and American Law: Authority, Morality,
and Linguistic Ideology 207
Notes 225
Bibliography 279
Index of Learning to Think Like a Lawyer 301

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