8 Signs You’re Learning to Think Like a Lawyer

When you begin law school, you are quickly led to believe that your sole purpose is to “learn how to think like a lawyer.”  But what in the world does that even mean?  Here’s a summary of my understanding of the answer to this vital question, post-first semester:

The Thinker Statue

You know you’re beginning to think like a lawyer when…

1. your first thought after being sideswiped by a biker is “battery!”

2. your fellow classmates walking with you proceed to deliberate whether you were contributorily negligent.

NYC Bike Tour

3. a fellow law student asks for a favor, but you refuse until they demonstrate sufficient consideration.

4. you sacrifice time outside of class to create an elaborate song and dance out of a case, in efforts to entertain your professor.

5. your mock client in your Lawyering class becomes a real person that you feel the need to emphatically defend against 1L’s in other sections that represent the opposing party.

6. when you bake cookies for your classmates, you question whether you need to give sufficient warning to avoid liability in the event that something ended up in your design of the product that wasn’t supposed to.

7. you can’t enjoy Oscar season without spotting a legal issue or term in every movie you see (The Fighter…True Grit…Conviction…The Social Network…the list goes on and on).

8. you realize that from this point forth, only other law students/lawyers will likely appreciate your sense of humor and relish for legal puns.

2010 Law Revue Performance
2010 NYU Law Revue

But these are only the insights and experiences of one 1L.

On the last day of class, my civil procedure professor, Helen Hershkoff, more aptly, in her inspirational manner, explained to us that learning to think like a lawyer involved being precise, prepared, skeptical, developing good judgment, and overall, realizing that we have been granted a great privilege that comes with great responsibility.  When you attend NYU Law, you realize that this last point is the real answer to the question initially posed.

Or perhaps it is what another famous procedure professor told his class: “If you leave here thinking like a lawyer, it’s your own damn fault.”

4 thoughts on “8 Signs You’re Learning to Think Like a Lawyer

  1. I’m not neither a NYU law student nor a 1L but I wanted to ask the question. Caveat: English isn’t my first language so be kind to any syntax error.

    When I started law school, I was adamant on not ending thinking like a lawyer. I didn’t even understand what that idiom meant and I found it pompous for no reason. “Thinking like a lawyer? Please! What is so amazing about the way a lawyer think? Isn’t it all about logic and being analytical? Well, I have a background in quantitative finance so I know how to be logical and analytical.” At the end of 1L, I found myself telling both my torts and crim law that I was mad to have my mind been corrupted by law school. Yep, I could notice changes in the way I was handling conversations with my friends, I mean, the ones who weren’t going to law school. I was skeptical about almost everything, I was like “What are your proofs? Back it up! This doesn’t make sense because if it happened that way, it would be this and that yet you’re saying blah blah blah”.

    I’m graduating this June and I tend to skip some subjects with my friends because I hate this nagging voice at the back of my end which is telling me that their reasoning is flawed, that they don’t think things thoroughly, pay attention to the little things otherwise they would know that what they’re saying isn’t a sound, legal conclusion. I used to be a person who likes to debate but now, it’s worse so I just have light conversations with people.

    When it comes to TV shows, I can’t watch Law&Order (it used to be my favorite show) or any show portraying police officers anymore because all I see is violation of the accused rights, especially during the questioning at the station.

    Thinking like a lawyer sneaked up on me. Even though, I sometimes see myself as an annoying know-it-all, I’m happy to have developped this skill because it killed any envy of spreading unfounded rumors in me. Hello, wanna be sued for defamation?

Comments are closed.