The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law New Ed Edition
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“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.”
“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.”
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.
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1A. The author is clearly gifted....his ability to take one analogy, break it down, pause it to explain something, go back to it and break it down, and then bring it back up in another chapter but simply change the focus to another area of that analogy that you missed....is amazing.
1. Some chapters like "supressed markets" are boring and hard to grasp because they go all over the place. Some chapters like this one would have been better off sticking with one or two examples instead of 4+.
2. Each chapter has the same excact layout and format. In a short or middle length sized book that's ok, but in a book like this where it's 300 pages but becuase you have to pause, take notes, and because the book has so many words on each page it takes the time of a 600 page book to read you need to change the format up.
3. Some chapters, the last 3 or so chapters in particular, needed pictures for the equations they were going into details about. It's better to describe a mathematical equation by showing an equation not explaining it with words.
Consider the case where a cow manages to reach a road, causing an auto accident. One legal ideal is maxium efficiency; i.e. reducing the burden on the legal system including the resources of litigants as well as judges. The idea of efficiency is one basis for statutes of limitations, even when their application can lead to injustice in the colloquial meaning of the word. One might therefore conclude that the rancher should always be held liable for the cow/car accident. However, there is another principle that a person like the rancher is not liable if he/she takes all the precautions that are reasonable, so the accident apparently still can go to trial on that basis. An interesting example of statute of limitations, not cited in the book, is a recent decision by the North Carolina Supreme Court that a group of homeowners in North Carolina can't sue a company that contaminated their drinking water because a state deadline has lapsed - even if residents did not realize their water was polluted until years later.
Suppose a piece of art is stolen. No matter how many times it is resold, the original owner can still claim ownership. Now suppose the original owner loses the art work due to fraud instead of outright theft. If a subsequent buyer purchases the item in good faith, and not at some huge bargain price, the purchaser maintains ownership. The justification is that the original owner should have been more careful but he/she cannot try to prove due diligence as a basis of reclaiming the painting. This is the type of concrete, consistent decision making I found most satisfactory.
Conversely, suppose a photo processor promises to take your old photos, which mean a lot to you, and make them computer readable, but loses the photos instead. Regardless of efficiency, and disclaimers in the processor's literature, you can claim compensation above the minimal value of what it costs to produce a photo; but how much should you be compensated? There are various ideas that Farnsworth puts forward for computing the value, but in fact there may be great discrepancy in what is awarded and only ambiguous guidance; in one case the award was $7,500. For maximum efficiency, I would have though the customer should have been given the opportunity to purchase insurance against loss and that would be the only recourse.
For the student contemplating law school, this would be a fine introduction to legal reasoning. It would set you up well for the first year's work, especially in Contracts and Torts.