A lawyer and professor draws on his legal training to teach readers the art of argument.
In this manual, Trachtman (Law/Tufts Univ.; The International Law of Economic Migration, 2009) moves legal argument out of the classroom and shares it with a general audience. Although the text is firmly grounded in the author’s legal background—the first chapter, for example, explores what the law is and why it matters—it also draws many parallels to other professional contexts and social situations: “In a broader social setting, you might acknowledge that competent and honest argument over the application of rules, principles, and policy will allow fair decisions to prevail.” The book is structured thematically, moving from a discussion of the procedures of argument to an explanation of facts and their uses. Later chapters cover various rhetorical techniques and fundamentals of legal theory. Trachtman acknowledges that lawyers traditionally use footnotes to support and develop arguments, and he makes frequent use of them here, both to cite evidence and to offer additional commentary. He defines many legal terms in the book, and they make frequent appearances (“Parents also often apply a rule of res judicata, as described in section 3.14: once a decision is made, it is final”). The author also often uses point-counterpoint examples to illustrate the techniques he describes, and occasionally even “counter-counter-counterpoint” items. The author’s wry asides add moments of humor, but they also reveal some of the techniques’ limited applicability outside the legal realm. For example, while explaining the technique of reductio ad absurdum (“the extension of a proposed principle to absurd or undesirable lengths”), the author writes, “Try this with your friends, and they will soon be ex-friends.” Overall, readers engaged in legal argument or persuasive writing and speaking will get the most value from this book.
An easy-to-follow guide to argument techniques and theory.