Prof. Ward Farnsworth's The Legal Analyst:

Ward Farnsworth, a friend of mine who teaches at Boston University law school, has just published a new book, The Legal Analyst. It's an excellent book, especially for law students and incoming law students — thoughtful, well-written, and useful.

I'm delighted to say that Ward will be guest-blogging about the book next week. For now, here's a brief summary from the Preface:

The book is a user’s guide to tools for thinking about legal questions. It divides up the world of law according to techniques for thinking about it, then gives lots of examples of how the techniques work — a bit of criminal or tort law here, a bit of contract or constitutional law there, and so forth. In essence I’ve tried to take the most interesting ideas one learns about in law school — or should learn, or might wish to have learned --­ and explain them in ways that are clear and that convey why thinking about legal questions is an exciting, intellectually satisfying activity (or why some of us think so, anyway).

This might sound like a book for law students, or for people heading to law school, and it is indeed meant to help them; when a new recruit asks me what they might find helpful to read during the summer before law school, I’ve never been sure what to suggest, and this book should be a help to them. But it is also meant for anyone else interested in law, professional or amateur. This is the book I would have liked before I went to law school, when I understood almost none of what it explains. It also is the book I would have liked when I got out of law school, at which time I understood about half of it. It even is the book I’d like to have had at various earlier points during my teaching career, as when I wasn’t sure about the meaning of a stag hunt or the conjunction paradox.

See also the Table of Contents and these three sample chapters, all available at The Legal Analyst site.

Disclosure: One of the chapters is adapted from my The Mechanisms of the Slippery Slope.

This book, from a cursory examination, seems a needed addition to the pre-law school guide or law school guide genre. Instead of giving hints, tricks, and horror stories it seeks to talk about how we, as law students and lawyers, go about thinking about problems and what tools we use to analyze those problems. I fortunately was lucky enough to have a Property Law Instructor that appreciated the utility of different approaches to legal reasoning and covered a lot of the ideas in the book, but that wasn't until second semester of my 1L year.

Looking through the table of contents and the myriad of tools available to analyze problems reminded me why I am a 2L and not in some other avenue of education or work. Well done.
7.27.2007 4:22pm
JeremyBUSL02 (mail):
I had Professor Farnsworth for first year torts, and still have great memories of that class. Can't wait to read his book and for Professor Farnsworth's blogging next week
7.27.2007 4:26pm
Ted Frank (www):
This book is a pedagogical masterpiece, and should be required reading for all law students and, I daresay, a lot of law graduates and public officials and presidential candidates as well.
7.27.2007 4:55pm
frankcross (mail):
From the available sample, I would say this book should be indispensable to the ambitious new student shooting for law review.
7.27.2007 4:57pm
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):

I'm delighted to say that Ward will be guest-blogging about the book next week.

Good news, everybody!
7.27.2007 6:03pm
The table of contents sounds like it outlines the key analytic frames of economics, not "law". This is great (and I say this as a scholar who focuses my work in law &econ areas) but the book should be advertised as such.

Also, I found the chapter about "Base Rates" to be maddening. All that verbosity about "building a fraction" was confusing and way overdone ... why can't he just provide the Bayes Rule formula for a reader who is slightly mathematically inclined?
7.27.2007 6:16pm
Reinhold (mail):
Why don't law school's teach us what's in this book?
7.27.2007 6:31pm
Reinhold (mail):
7.27.2007 6:31pm
David Stras:
Good choice, Eugene. I enjoy Ward's scholarship, and I look forward to seeing his blogging next week.
7.27.2007 7:28pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Never had a class with the man, but I heard nothing but good things.
7.27.2007 8:39pm
Any relation to the late E. Allan Farnsworth, of contracts fame?
7.29.2007 2:13pm