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The 'Reason-Giving' Lawyer: An Ethical, Practical, and Pedagogical Perspective

40 Pages Posted: 20 May 2012 Last revised: 21 Nov 2013

Donald J. Kochan

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law

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Date Written: May 19, 2012


Whether as a matter of duty or utility, lawyers give reasons for their actions all the time. In the various venues in which legal skills must be employed, reason-giving is required in some, expected in others, desired in many, and useful in most. This Essay underscores the pervasiveness of reason-giving in the practice of law and the consequent necessity of lawyers developing a skill at giving reasons.

This Essay examines reason-giving as an innate human characteristic related directly to our need for answers and our constant yearning to understand the answer to the question “why.” It briefly surveys the scholarship on reason-giving, including an analysis of its presence in law and legal institutions. Understanding then that reason-giving is a skill required for effective lawyering, the Essay proceeds to emphasize the pedagogical importance of (a) teaching an understanding of reason-giving’s prevalence in law; and, (b) nurturing the discrete habit and skill of reason-giving in legal education as a foundational trait of good lawyering. The Essay concludes with a case study equating the law school exam taking process with administrative law decisionmaking and law school grading with the process of judicial review of agency action. Agency is to student as judge is to law professor.

Greater recognition of the role of the reason-giving lawyer – along with recognition and strengthening of the parts of legal education that help inculcate the reason-giving skill – should improve our understanding of when, how, and under what conditions reason-giving must occur for the effective functioning of the legal system and for effective lawyering.

Keywords: Reason-Giving, Chenery, Administrative Procedure Act, judicial review of agency action, legal obligations and lawyer ethics, lawyering skills, law school pedagogy, law school exam taking

Suggested Citation

Kochan, Donald J., The 'Reason-Giving' Lawyer: An Ethical, Practical, and Pedagogical Perspective (May 19, 2012). Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Forthcoming; Chapman University Law Research Paper No. 12-7. Available at SSRN: or

Donald J. Kochan (Contact Author)

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866-1099
United States
714-628-2618 (Phone)
714-628-2576 (Fax)

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