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

4.8 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226238357
ISBN-10: 0226238350
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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)
  • Publication Date: September 15, 2008
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001NPE9OE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,753 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: 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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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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Format: 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.
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