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How to Think Like a Lawyer without Changing Career Paths

Publication Date: 
October 24, 2007
Stanford Report
Amy Poftak

The law school's Thinking Like a Lawyer course is featured in the Stanford Report. The class, designed to offer graduate students outside the field of law a window into core legal concepts, is taught by 12 Law School faculty with areas of expertise ranging from torts to intellectual property. Dean Larry Kramer and Vice Dean Mark Kelman are quoted in the story:

"Law is more art than science," said Law School Dean Larry Kramer, who helped to develop the class. "It's like learning music. In music, there are a limited number of foundational notes and chords that one learns to combine in ever more complex ways to create different melodies and different styles of music. So, too, in law there are a limited number of concepts and forms of argument that law students learn to use and that make up the underpinnings of different fields of law."

It's a rare opportunity to learn from top legal scholars without having to take the LSAT. Peer inside the class and you might find Pamela S. Karlan, who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, examining constitutional issues, or Robert Weisberg, director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, walking students through a criminal case. Kramer, who holds the Richard E. Lang Professorship for the Dean of Stanford Law School, is teaching two sessions on litigation and dispute resolution.

The idea is to explore essential questions in the legal field, said Mark Kelman, the James C. Gaither Professor of Law and vice dean, who came up with the idea for the course and oversaw its development.

"We're not trying to teach law lite. We're teaching law in a reduced and intense way, focusing on the essence of a particular subject area and addressing key conceptual issues that come up again and again," Kelman said.