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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 (33 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


“Every good lawyer knows that there’s a standard set of argumentative moves that are repeatedly made in different legal settings.  Farnsworth’s book is chock full of the kind of tools that every legal analyst should have in his or her back pocket.  This ambitious book is likely to spur a lively debate about what exactly are the essential tools of legal analysis.  While some will grouse that their pet tool was excluded, the books points toward a new way of organizing the first-year curriculum.  Farnsworth is forging a new pedagogical canon.”

(Ian Ayres, Townsend Professor, Yale Law School and author of Super Crunchers)

“This is one of those rare books that will actually raise the level of analysis at every law school in the country. A must-read not only for students just beginning law school, but indeed for anyone who could use a reminder of how diverse and powerful the legal toolkit really is.”
(Douglas Lichtman, Professor, University of Chicago Law School)

“This book is a very accessible introduction to the major ideas of modern legal thinking and useful survey of current thinking in the field.  It covers an extraordinarily broad range of topics in a limited space and is very clearly written, studded with interesting examples and observations. It can profitably be read by law students, lawyers, and lay people with an interest in the legal system.”
(Daniel Farber, Sho Sato Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley)

The Legal Analyst provides an engaging and enlightening introduction to the most essential concepts of legal reasoning. In exceptionally clear prose, Ward Farnsworth walks the reader through concepts such as the Coase Theorem, the Prisoner’s Dilemma, and Property Rules and Liability Rules—peeling away the fog of confusion that often envelops them to reveal the deep and startlingly simple insights that they offer. The reader comes away from the book with a toolkit of ideas that can be used to take apart and examine almost any legal issue.”

(Oona A. Hathaway, Associate Professor of Law, Yale Law School)

“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; New edition edition (September 15, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001NPE9OE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #293,996 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
50 of 52 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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41 of 42 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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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and not just for lawyers July 22, 2008
By Michael
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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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I should have guessed ... October 22, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
... when someone talks about tools and tricks for legal analysis they usually mean GAME THEORY.

I bought the book after sampling the first chapter on kindle, incidentally the sample didn't talk much about game theory.

The book is good for those with no exposure to game theory. Game theory can provide another paradigm for looking at legal decisions. The author admits this isn't how the law was formed, or even necessarily how judges make decisions, its just another tool that often yields the same results.

The first few chapters are the core. Once the prisoners' dilemma, stag hunt, single owner theory, and Coase's theorem are covered I felt these underlying concepts were just repurposed for the rest of the book (the book is composed of >30 short, "different" chapters); so it got a bit repetitive.

But more than that, as the book wore on, fewer and fewer cases are mentioned, the book gets vague, and our 3-4 underlying concepts are used to just motivate or suggest a possible "why" for certain aspects of the law.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
The delivery was on time and the publication is well written
Published 10 days ago by Doreese Levesque
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Informative and suggestive.
Published 7 months ago by John Fowler
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I really enjoyed this book
Published 8 months 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 9 months 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 9 months 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 13 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 13 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 18 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 19 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 20 months ago by John Mitchell
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