What Is Reading In The Practice Of Law?

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Abstract: Law professors offer to teach students something called “thinking like a lawyer.” They suggest thereby that legal thought is in some way unique. If it is, through what means is it acquired? By reading the law. And so reading the law must be a different experience than reading other things, as is implied by the admonition that thinking like a lawyer is somehow different than other thinking. In most law school education, reading is practiced as a means to an end—to produce a description of the substance or procedure of a particular area of the law. Too often, it is only in legal research and writing courses that reading is explicitly addressed. Even there, it is most often analyzed only in its role as a counterpart to the goal of writing; of producing tangible text. But although reading is not studied on its own terms, it makes up most of the practice of learning the law and much of the practice of law. When we read in the utilitarian senses of describing substance or procedure or in order to learn to write, we omit the powerful, tacit learning that occurs with this reading—the learning of the legal worldview. This remains true in the practice of law as well, where reading maintains the acquired worldview. This article explores how that worldview seeps silently into the lives of lawyers while they are busy learning to describe and inscribe the law. While social science has much to tell us about the process of reading, we need to turn to the arts to see the worldview that is learned and perpetuated when one learns to read the law.
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Archival date: 2016-08-23
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