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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an Exceptional book
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...
Published on August 25, 2007 by Amazon Customer

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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I should have guessed ...
... 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...
Published 22 months ago by HS


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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an Exceptional book, August 25, 2007
By 
Amazon Customer (framingham, ma United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law (Paperback)
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
This review is from: The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law (Paperback)
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
By 
George Stanton (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law (Paperback)
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
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law (Paperback)
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. It is not because of any lack of quality or scholarship: it is simply a difficult read. Those who do complete the trek will be rewarded with an expanded knowledge of the logic of the law.

I do wish Professor Farnsworth would consider writing a version of "The Legal Analyst" for the average person - such a book is truly needed.

Jerry
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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
This review is from: The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law (Paperback)
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. In a vivid example given in the book, a neighbor's ferocious ox has trespassed into your farm and is about to gore your goat. You'll have to choose between shooting the ox and letting your goat die. So you shoot it. Do you owe your neighbor a new ox? (Think about this before reading further.)

Well, I'm not going to give you the answer! But through the concept of a "Single Owner," the author skillfully gives us the answer and the why. If you owned both farms, the goat, and the ox (single-owner rule) and your ox was worth five times that of your goat, would you still be that trigger happy to kill your ox instead of letting your goat die? The death of either animal would be a cost to you and the principle of "Wealth Maximization" comes into effect. Doesn't this "Single Owner" concept remind you of the proposed "Single Payer" in the health care reform plan?

The author brings up so many diverse and at times surprising applications of the Rational "Wealth Maximization "principle, which is consciously or unconsciously behind many US Judicial decisions. It shows that "Justice" and "Rights" are concepts that have a price associated with them. There is a "Price" at which you would be willing to sell your "right." A court may actually rule against the party who values a right much more than the opposing side does in order to force further negotiations between the two sides of the dispute so that the losing side may buy the winning side's right to the claim! In this case how much of "Justice" can you afford to buy?

Reading this book, you may become convinced that the traditional Judeo-Christian values in the United States have heavily shifted toward Judean values, deemphasizing ethics in economic rationalism. As a contemporary example, one would have thought that after all the taxpayers had done for the executives of "too big to fail" companies, they would have shown appreciation by not giving themselves such huge bonuses but they followed: "Do whatever you want, whenever you can, if you can get away with it! "It's unlawful only if you get caught!"

Indeed for a long time the question of "Why should I be moral?" has been a vexing question for philosophers. This book gives substantial evidence to how much moral virtues such as justice and benevolence have been ignored as reasons to act in a system of economic rationalism. Perhaps the dire consequences of this ignorance would be nowhere more pronounced than in health care and education systems if they were solely run as businesses under strict economic rationalism.

This is a 5-Star book and I highly recommend it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Toolkit for Thinking, March 24, 2012
This review is from: The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law (Paperback)
My main goal in teaching my introductory Economics class is to give students a good set of mental tools for understanding the world. This semester, I had a student who already had a surprisingly good understanding of game theory and questions of knowledge and proof. As we talked after class, he mentioned that he had learned these things from a book assigned for an introductory law class. After I asked about the book, he lent it to me.

From the minute I started reading 'The Legal Analyst', I saw that it was consistently excellent. About two-thirds of it was a readable, intuitive, high-quality summary of things I already knew, and the other third was new information that I am very glad to have. After finishing the book, my professional opinion is that it is extraordinarily good. Anyone who studies it will be a much better thinker and citizen.

'The Legal Analyst' is not just a law textbook. The subtitle is 'A toolkit for thinking about the law'. These should be reversed. The title of the book should be 'A Toolkit for Thinking' and the subtitle should be 'using examples from the legal system'. The book is an excellent overview of a lot of very important things, such as incentives, thinking at the margin, game theory, the social value of rules and standards, heuristics and biases in human thinking, and the tools of rational thinking. It has the best intuitive explanation of Bayes' Theorem I have ever seen, making this incredibly important mental tool available for everyone's use.

I am very glad that law students are reading 'The Legal Analyst'. They will be much better thinkers as a result. The existence of this book makes me more optimistic about the future of our government and legal system. If the principles outlined here become widely understood, the world will be a better place. This book should be required reading in any course that can get away with assigning it. Anyone who is responsible for writing any kind of regulation or policy, or does economic analysis, needs the information in this book.

'The Legal Analyst' is a very easy book to read, making it even better from a cost-benefit analysis standpoint. I read it a few chapters a time, in my spare time, without any mental effort required. A great deal of high-quality research has been carefully and expertly summarized in clear, vibrant language.

Anyone who has an interest in understanding how the world works, or becoming a more rational thinker, should read 'The Legal Analyst'.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I should have guessed ..., October 22, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
... 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing else like this available, July 27, 2012
I attended law school in the seventies and have been practicing law ever since. A resource like book would have been invaluable during law school. I have already used it in my practice and will use it again often, I'm sure. It's clearly and elegantly written to boot. Lawyers need to read as much good prose as they can to counteract the effects of daily immersion in dreadful, pedestrian writing.

Just one warning. A substantial percentage of lawyers practicing today in all settings have no need--or virtually no need--for familiarity with the analytical tools that are Farnsworth's subject matter. That's just the way it is. The book is not about the business of law, in any of its facets.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Legal theory, fascinating and bizarre, September 11, 2011
By 
Padman (San Antonio, TX, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law (Paperback)
This book is a well-organized and well-written summary of legal theory that delves into the various issues that courts deal with. As such, it provides insight into many traditionally non-legal concepts such as Game Theory, Behavioral Economics, and crowd psychology, showing how each is related to the law. There is plenty to feed off of here, even if you do not agree with the author's central premise on the true function of the law.

That premise is that the law is more than just an agreed set of rules that people live by--it is a positive force in the way that people behave. The author opens with the story of a bank robbery and shows how the law can be used in two ways: First, it can be used in determining fault in the incident and assessing damages. But it can also be used as a way to influence people who might be involved in future robberies. The court's findings put a price on people's actions and so give incentive to act one way or another in similar conditions. While the first conception (ex post) is important in legal theory, the second (ex ante) has far more wide-ranging implications and is the source of much greater philosophical reflection.

What we find is that, like it or not, the legal system is much more powerful than it seems to be on the surface and much more influential than some people would like to have it. As the author makes clear, the law is always active and so there is no sense in envisioning a society in which there is no governmental or legal influence. It will always influence action, so we must ensure that it influences in the right direction.

This is a premise that libertarians will have trouble accepting. They will question whether any such government entity should have influence on society and attempt to create a system in which the influence is minimized or eliminated altogether. After all, the law and government in general are incapable of being truly objective in these matters--the author even goes on to show how distorted and bizarre legal thinking can be when we get to the bottom of it.

For example, if a majority of judges think that a defendant is innocent, even if it is for different and conflicting reasons, he will be considered not guilty and released. This makes sense on one level, but can seem a bit counter intuitive on others. Farnsworth ably covers these issues though is not able to reconcile the discrepancy.

He also shows how cold and calculating the law can be. For instance, when considering the various possibilities of given legal proceedings, the author says that "Instead of worrying about who is causing the problem, it's better to ask what solution to it is cheapest." This kind of accounting may well be the best solution with regard to surface economics, but can we be sure that is all that matters when real life is fuller and richer than monetary gains and losses?

With that case being made, one cannot really criticize this book or the author. He states what can hardly be doubted as the positive condition of the legal system, and at least spurs thought with regard to the normative condition. In the mean time, he showers the reader with excellent information and ideas that are bound to excite the eager thinker, legal or otherwise.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book, February 10, 2008
This review is from: The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law (Paperback)
I recommend this book to any law student. This is stuff that all my professors continually refer to, but no one ever really takes the time to explain. I've been able to participate much more in discussions and understand the implications of various policies, etc.
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The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law
The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law by Ward Farnsworth (Paperback - June 15, 2007)
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