Levels of Metaphor in Persuasive Legal Writing

29 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2008

See all articles by Michael R. Smith

Michael R. Smith

University of Wyoming College of Law


The role of metaphor in the law has been a hot topic among legal scholars in recent years. In fact, recent scholarly works on metaphor in the law (and the more general works on metaphor that have served as their basis) have addressed the topic from the standpoints of numerous disciplines, including linguistics, philosophy, rhetoric, cognitive psychology, and literary theory. Because of these vastly different approaches to the topic, however, much of the literature on metaphor in the law is difficult to reconcile. Moreover, while these scholarly works have increased lawyers' appreciation and understanding of the prevalence and power of metaphor in legal discourse, the absence of some type of organizational scheme has made it difficult for legal advocates to harness this power so that it can be used in their everyday practices.

This article, then, has two primary goals. First, this article attempts to reconcile some of the approaches to the topic of "metaphor and the law" by identifying four "levels" of metaphor operating in legal analysis and writing. . . . The second, and more practical, goal of this article is to analyze the specific implications of these four levels of metaphor on the practice of persuasive legal writing. While most of the recent scholarship on metaphor has made it clear that metaphors are more than mere rhetorical or literary devices, these works do not diminish the importance of metaphor to legal rhetoricians. To the contrary, the more the legal profession learns about metaphors, the more opportunities exist for legal advocates to develop rhetorical strategies around them. Thus, while this Article acknowledges that metaphors are more than rhetorical devices, it nevertheless demonstrates that metaphors, more than ever, can and do serve as the basis for numerous rhetorical strategies.

Keywords: metaphor, legal writing, rhetoric, legal advocacy, persuasion, persuasive legal writing

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Smith, Michael R., Levels of Metaphor in Persuasive Legal Writing. Mercer Law Review, Vol. 58, No. 3, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1105901

Michael R. Smith (Contact Author)

University of Wyoming College of Law ( email )

Dept 3035
1000 E. University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071
United States
307-766-6421 (Phone)

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