Book Review: A Primer on Legal Reasoning
Author: Michael Evan Gold
Publisher: Cornell University Press 2018
Reviewer: Dr. Louise Floyd
Ever tried explaining to a young law student how to spot an issue in a problem scenario? Or have you tied yourself in knots trying to explain subjective and objective standards?
These crucial matters, so important to developing an understanding of the law and how to use it, are discussed in a very useful publication by respected Cornell University academic, Professor Michael Evan Gold in his new work: A Primer on Legal Reasoning (Cornell University Press 2018).
This excellent American publication describes itself as being aimed at pre-law and early law students (Introduction at 2). However, I would venture to suggest that anyone wanting a refresher in legal reasoning would find a place for this book on their bookshelf.
The chapters traverse topics such as: Issues (Chapter 1); Identifying the Governing Rule of Law (Chapter 2); Arguments in General (Chapter 6); Arguments Classified by Function (Chapter 7); Arguments Based on Evidence (Chapter 8); Policy Arguments (Chapter 9); Interpreting Statutes (Chapter 16); and Application of Law to Facts (Chapter 18).
Given that most Australian law schools have been instructed by the Committee of Australian Law Deans to re-emphasise some of the fundamentals, such as statutory interpretation, these topics are extremely important.
The book is particularly noteworthy given its US origin. Many US Law Schools use the Socratic or questioning teaching method. This book challenges that approach and underscores the importance of arming all law students with fundamental skills — which we go on to develop and use throughout our legal careers.
Professor Gold is a well-respected member of staff at Cornell. Professor Gold’s US perspective for skills that are universal in the western world of law is enriching for us all.