Characterization and Legal Discourse
Laura E. Little
Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law
Journal of Legal Education, Vol. 46, p. 372, 1996
Characterization is the art of taking a problem and (re)framing it in terms that reflect favorably upon the speaker or the particular point of view she wishes to advocate. Lawyers must characterize all the time, whether they aree arguing on behalf of a client in court, writing legal memoranda, or negotiating the terms of a contract. However, characterization is more than an empty legal rhetorical device. It is also a skill commonly used by lawyers and non-lawyers alike in their everyday lives.
In this article, Professor Little presents characterization technique both in the context of everyday life and in the context of legal practice and pedagogy. Drawing from real-life examples and a variety of academic disciplines, Professor Little defines the concept of "characterization," and outlines the steps involved in characterizing a particular issue or dispute. Professor Little then provides four different characterization models to guide legal practitioners in choosing an appropriate characterization for different tasks and different audiences. Finally, she discusses the importance of characterization study in legal education, not only as a means of developing law students' lawyering skills, but also as a means of encouraging students to relate the law back to everyday life, embrace different perspectives, work towards responsible lawyering, and appreciate the human aspect of practicing law.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 35
Keywords: legal education, rhetoric, advocacy, persuasion, legal argument, interdisciplinary studies, professional responsibility, legal problem-solving, conflict of laws, jurisprudence, characterization, spinning, frame shifting
JEL Classification: I21, K10, K19, K30, K40, K41Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: October 30, 2008
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