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The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law [Kindle Edition]

Ward Farnsworth
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

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Book Description

There are two kinds of knowledge law school teaches: legal rules on the one hand, and tools for thinking about legal problems on the other. Although the tools are far more interesting and useful than the rules, they tend to be neglected in favor of other aspects of the curriculum. In The Legal Analyst, Ward Farnsworth brings together in one place all of the most powerful of those tools for thinking about law.

From classic ideas in game theory such as the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” and the “Stag Hunt” to psychological principles such as hindsight bias and framing effects, from ideas in jurisprudence such as the slippery slope to more than two dozen other such principles, Farnsworth’s guide leads readers through the fascinating world of legal thought. Each chapter introduces a single tool and shows how it can be used to solve different types of problems. The explanations are written in clear, lively language and illustrated with a wide range of examples.

The Legal Analyst is an indispensable user’s manual for law students, experienced practitioners seeking a one-stop guide to legal principles, or anyone else with an interest in the law.

Editorial Reviews


“This is an outstanding book that occupies a significant and unique niche in the literature of jurisprudence and legal methodology. Farnsworth introduces students and practitioners alike to basic methods of legal analysis across a broad range of disciplines. This book should become the ultimate ‘toolkit’ for those new to the profession.”
(David J. Bederman, Emory University School of Law)

About the Author

Ward Farnsworth, who clerked for both Judge Richard A. Posner and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, is professor of law and Nancy Barton Scholar at the Boston University School of Law. He is the coauthor of Torts: Cases and Questions.




Product Details

  • File Size: 3256 KB
  • Print Length: 326 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (June 15, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001NPE9OE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,236 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an Exceptional book August 25, 2007
It provides the reader with an overview of the principle methods used in legal reasoning. Using simple, but realistic examples Farnsworth shows the ambiguity facing the various parties in a legal setting. He shows how various "tools" can be used in thinking about legal problems and describes the less obvious but potentially relevant factors that must be considered in deciding the outcome.

The audience for the book is not limited to lawyers. It will be of interest to those in any profession where the decision to complex issues calls for seeing the problem as a whole, examining how decisions affect one another and arriving at the optimal solution.

The book views the law in many parts through the lens of economic theory.

It is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the law.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Toolkit" is Right. Real-World Value August 10, 2007
Is it wrong of me to argue before the local Bench while relying on what I've learned from "The Legal Analyst" without giving Ward Farnsworth credit? I really should.
It's been a very long time since I've enjoyed any book more than "The Legal Analyst." I read about it on the Volokh Conspiracy and I imagined "theory." But I quickly realized it has such real-world value that I consider it
one of my most essential tools. Every chapter not only brings understanding but a realization that you are being taught to argue much more effectively. Besides, it's just plain good reading.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and not just for lawyers July 22, 2008
It's unfortunate that this book uses the term legal in the title since that might turn off potential readers who are not lawyers. The topics covered in this book would be interesting to anyone with an interest in politics, economics, public policy, and of course law. Some of the discussion is geared a little more towards law, but it doesn't take too much thought to extend the ideas.

Each chapter gives an introduction to the topic it concerns itself with, such as game theory, slippery slopes, hindsight bias, etc. It then goes on to discuss some problems drawn from areas such as a law, economics, or social issues, and how considering them in light of the topic of the chapter can give a new perspective.

The chapters are short and not so interdependent that you couldn't skip around a little to read the ones you find most interesting first. I think all the chapters were interesting, and recommend just starting at the beginning.

Amazon doesn't give a table of contents, but you can look up the author's website which has a link to a website for the book. There you can find the table of contents and a few sample chapters.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but dense reading May 14, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The author says he intends his book to be of interest to "law students, lawyers, scholars, and anyone else with an interest in the legal system". The pity is that most people are unaware of the impact of the legal system and its impact on their daily lives. A book like "The Legal Analyst", unfortunately, is not for the average citizen. It took me months of nibbling, reading a bit at a time, to get through these fascinating, but densely written book.

"The Legal Analyst" is excellent: informative, learned and challenging, all at the same time. The alternative title considered was "Thinking Like a Law Professor" and that might have been more appropriate.

The value of the book is that instead of discussing rules as so many law texts do, Professor Farnsworth introduces us here - quite effectively - to tools for thinking about the law.

I am not a lawyer, but lawyers are my clientele and I play a role in litigation as an expert witness and consultant. I am also an American who is very concerned about the direction of the nation and the fate of its Constitution, the very document that makes us a nation of laws.

Professor Farnsworth is a gentle guide. He avoids footnotes. He doesn't use dry academic language. He is, matter of fact, pretty straightforward. But the subject matter itself, while always challenging, is sometimes dry. There are thirty chapters on the tools of legal thought, prefaced by a introduction that poses an interesting challenge. If a robber enters a bank, takes customer hostage and threatens to kill a hostage if he doesn't get $5,000, should the bank be held liable when the robber gets no money and kills the hostage? (I'm not going to tell.)

On the whole, only the truly committed will make it through this book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Toolkit For All Professions March 16, 2010
By malekz
This book is not about legal rules but about how to analyze laws and legal problems. It highlights crucial foundations of laws in the United Sates and the tools with which legal decisions are made.

Ward Farnsworth through a fluent and uncomplicated language and using many vivid real-world examples guides readers into the fascinating world of legal thought. He picks up complicated subjects in game theory such as "Prisoner's Dilemma," Lean concepts such as "Waste minimization and Efficiency," psychological principles such as "Hindsight Bias," or ideas in jurisprudence such as the "Slippery Slope" to guides us, using uncomplicated and nontechnical language, on how each technique can be applied to solve a variety of problems. The book will improve your personal and managerial decision making skills as well. Once you started reading a few pages of it, you would not want to put it down.

The author points out that the intent of US Primary Founders was prevention of absolute power through separation of power into legislative, judicial, and executive branches. However, we observe the extreme domination of laws and lawyers in all aspects of lives and in all three branches of the Government to the extent that if Abraham Lincoln was alive today, he would probably be modifying his famous statement by whispering into our ears: "A government of lawyers, by the lawyers, for the lawyers!" The author highlights how this separation of powers has led to "Rent Seeking" activities by Congress and how it causes making any changes in the system so difficult and painful.

What is so fascinating about this book, requiring further scrutiny, is its strong emphasis on the Principle of "Wealth Maximization" in decision making and legal thought.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I really enjoyed this book
Published 17 days ago by timothy Harris
4.0 out of 5 stars Not totally satisfactory, but that is primarily due to the law, not...
Farnsworth is very bright, with an active inquiring mind. In "The Legal Analyst" he explains legal principles, both as they are and as they might ideally be. Read more
Published 1 month ago by algo41
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended
Extremely illustrating for those interested in law but who are not lawyers. As any other book that enters into matters seriously, it is sometimes dense reading, but I think it is... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kalton Yalpatos
5.0 out of 5 stars good book
I like it very much. Writing is everything about becoming a legal worker. This books helps in many aspects on how to ...
Published 5 months ago by OC_Mango
4.0 out of 5 stars A little pendantic
But to a lay person the law is. I have learned a lot but still have a great deal more the plod through. Read more
Published 5 months ago by On_A_Jet_Plane
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear and worth the read
Awesome account of how to apply different theories to legal practice and the general world around us. Clear writing provides excellent advice.
Published 10 months ago by Andrea
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
Try comparing modern legal analysis to Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, book one, the chapter "On the Nature of Laws". Read more
Published 11 months ago by Kent J. Nauman
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
This book I have found to be a very useful guide for law and prelaw students that can and should be read and re-read in your educational journey.
Published 12 months ago by John Mitchell
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Summary of Key Legal Theories
This is THE book for anyone who wants to understand the rationale behind the key legal rules that govern society. It's readable and interesting -- not one bit dry! Read more
Published 13 months ago by LadySherlock
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read so far..
I am starting law school this fall and needed something to get me on the right track... I think this book is doing the job... It is teaching me how to think... Read more
Published 15 months ago by saul dorsey
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