Survive Law writer Ramisa reviews LexisNexis' 'Legal Problem Solving and Syllogistic Analysis'. Check it out on LexisNexis for more information.
In only my second year, I decided to live out the ambitions of my sixteen-year-old self: to study an additional degree in Philosophy/English on top of my Law one. The arts degree combination derived from my two lifelong humanities passions much to the dismay of my vocationally-oriented Asian parents. When I took the plunge to sign up for this arts degree, I experienced the expected line of questions from my parents that prevented me from taking the degree in the first place.
Their concerns can be condensed to:
‘You can choose psychology instead; it’s much more practical.’
‘Doesn’t your law degree already teach you philosophy? Why add another degree that teaches you exactly the same thing?’
‘Will I have to watch you not shower for months, stare up at the clouds for inordinate amounts of time with dreamy eyes, and murmur under your breath in Ancient Greek dialogue?’
They were very reasonable questions; ones I didn’t have an answer to (except an enthusiastic YES for the third one). I had decided to try out one unit and count it as an elective - since I needed them to graduate anyway - and I completed my first philosophy unit: Critical Thinking. Combined with a book received for review - Legal Problem Solving and Syllogistic Analysis - I learned how the theoretical philosophical logic applied to practical law.
I found the answer to my parents’ concerns very quickly: vocational subjects like law and psychology give you the basis to practice and waste no time on additional theory. But understanding philosophy at its core, as the book outlines, is instrumental to learning how to use legal reasoning.
Whether you are a seasoned advocate or a fresh new face to the scene, chances are you have had one deliberating question: How exactly does one present a compelling legal argument? How do you balance competing arguments fairly while still maintaining a stance? How can I ensure that my legal reasoning is sound and easy to follow?
This book answers it all. Broken into three main components, here is a brief outline of how the book is organised:
Syllogisms are argument structures where lines of reasoning (called the ‘premises’) lead to a main point (the ‘conclusion’).
An example of a very simple syllogism:
(1) All dogs are mammals
(2) Mammals are warm blooded
(3) THEREFORE: All dogs are warm-blooded
A simplified version of how this applies to legal practice is:
(1) Immediate imprisonment should not be imposed if other options are available.
(2) In the instant case, the pre-sentence report for the accused is favourable.
(3) THEREFORE: Immediate imprisonment should not be imposed on the accused.
[Extracted from page 30-31]
Fallacies are faults in arguments - also known as poor reasoning. This can include making gross generalisations that are not representative (hasty generalisations) and more.
Application to legal practice
Your premises and conclusions are extended into legal issues. You learn different principles of legal reasoning, including how to argue using legal rules with limbs, how to balance competing arguments (!) and how to complete a step analysis of a legal principle to apply to your situation.
Written in an incredibly simple writing style with many illustrative practical examples extracted from cases themselves, I highly recommend this book for students looking to deepen their skills in legal argumentation. Principles of pure logic, now obsolete, once used to be integral to the law degree - and I understood why, after receiving an unexpectedly high result on a critical analysis for Ethics after using what I learned from it, the basics are essential.
The best application of this book is for aspiring mooters or assignments that require legal application. There are some things you can only learn from experience, like a mooting competition or after receiving feedback from an assignment. But the principles of legal reasoning is something you can master from your bedroom, leaving you plenty of spare time to observe clouds and murmur under your breath in Ancient Greek dialogue in a unhygienic - yet oddly peaceful - state of being.
Make sure to check it out here!
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