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Thinking Like Non-Lawyers: Why Empathy is a Core Lawyering Skill and Why Legal Education Should Change to Reflect Its Importance

49 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2010 Last revised: 16 Dec 2012

Ian Gallacher

Syracuse University - College of Law

Date Written: October 16, 2010

Abstract

This article is an exploration of some of the issues raised by the recent Carnegie Report on Educating Lawyers, and contains a recommendation that law schools change the way they teach especially first year law students in order to make them more empathetically aware of the circumstances by which the court opinions they study arose and the effects those opinions will have on others. The article argues that such changes will not just make lawyers better people, they will also make them better lawyers. The article examines the dangers inherent in an overemphasis on the “logical” form of analysis taught in law schools, and explores in depth two examples of logical thinking that failed to persuade non-lawyers, in the form of a jury. The article also looks at one strikingly successful example of empathetic lawyering – Max Steur’s cross-examination of a key witness during the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire trial – to show how a lawyer who is empathetically attuned with a jury can be devastatingly effective. The article offers specific proposals to help law schools ameliorate the dangers of an over-emphasis on “thinking like a lawyer” before, during, and after a student’s formal legal education.

Keywords: Legal Education, Empathy

Suggested Citation

Gallacher, Ian, Thinking Like Non-Lawyers: Why Empathy is a Core Lawyering Skill and Why Legal Education Should Change to Reflect Its Importance (October 16, 2010). Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1693146

Ian Gallacher (Contact Author)

Syracuse University - College of Law ( email )

Syracuse, NY 13244-1030
United States

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