• Advanced Topics in Contemporary Law and Legal Discourse

    168 | CCN: 31423

    The Rhetoric of the Legal Process

    Instructor: Felipe Gutterriez

    The theme of this course is the rhetoric of the legal process. As to what that might mean and what “law” might be, consider the following:

    Think for a moment what would follow if it were true
    that the activity of law consisted of nothing more
    than memorizing certain clear rules and learning where
    to find the others. First, both law school and the practice
    of law would be intolerably boring. But the fact is that for
    many people the study and practice of law are both
    difficult and fascinating.

    Let me suggest that you regard the law not as a set of rules
    to be memorized but as an activity, as something that
    people do, with their minds and with each other, as they act
    in relation both to a body of authoritative legal material and
    to the circumstances and events of the actual world. The
    law is a set of social and intellectual practices that defines
    a universe or culture in which you will learn to function;
    like other important activities, it offers its practitioner the
    opportunity to make a life, to work out a character, for herself
    or for himself. What you will learn in law school, on this view,
    is not information in the usual sense, not a set of repeatable
    propositions, but how to do something.

    * * *
    It might help if you were to compare the process of
    learning law *** [to] learning a language. One must of course
    know the rules of grammar and the meanings of terms, but
    to know those things is not to know how to speak the language;
    that knowledge comes only with use. The real difficulties and
    pleasures lie not in knowing the rules of French or of law, but
    in knowing how to speak the language, how to make sense of
    it, how to use it to serve your purposes in life.

    In both language and law, learning has a double focus: if one
    is to live and act competently in a particular culture, one
    simply must learn how the language-or the law-is in fact
    spoken by others, by those whom one wishes to address,
    to persuade, to learn from, and to live with. But one also
    wishes to learn how to turn the language, or the law, to one’s
    own purposes: to invent new sentences, to have new ideas,
    to do new things, perhaps to change the nature of the language
    itself. Your concern in law school is thus a double one: to learn
    as completely as you can how the legal culture functions; and
    to establish a place for yourself in relation to it from which you
    can attempt to use it in your own ways-in ways that increase
    your capacities and powers, ways that enable you to speak
    truthfully to the conditions of the world and to take positions
    (and offer them to others) which seem to you to be right.
    In doing all this you will subject your own views and inclinations
    to the discipline of the inherited culture and the conditions of
    the world; and you will have a chance, sometimes, not only to
    maintain but to improve the culture of which you become a part.

    White, James B. "Talk to Entering Students."  Occasional Papers L. Sch. U. Chi. 13 (1977): 1-6.

    Required Texts: Course reader available at Zee Zee Copy, 2431-C Durant Ave.

    Attendance: A central aspect of our study of law will the “case method” of learning law, that is, “studying actual cases in which the law can be seen in action.” A related aspect of our study of law is the active participation required of the students. Learning law is requires your participation. You must be prepared to be called upon and to speak up in class. Attendance is therefore a requirement of this course. Students missing a class during the first two weeks will be dropped from the course.

    Assignments: There will be regular short written assignments, one or two longer written assignments. Students will be expected to be prepared to be called upon from time to time in class.