Thinking Like a Lawyer

One of the first things new students in law school learn is that they need to start thinking like lawyers. This is a motto that’s repeated over and over again. And no, the main goal of thinking like a lawyer is not an attempt to become the butt of many lawyer jokes. Thinking like a lawyer means taking an argument and the facts, supporting that argument, and distinguishing those facts to formulate the possibilities of different arguments so that you can anticipate them. Not all law students end up thinking like lawyers. Some quit law school after they realize they are unable to do so. Some finish law school and end up practicing law, even though they have not mastered this art. Some law students are lucky enough to enter law school having already mastered this motto. My daughter, Addie, has already mastered the art of thinking like a lawyer, even if she does think that being a lawyer is a boring career.

A little over two years ago, just prior to Christmas, my family moved into our new home. My wife was still excited about the brand new gas range and oven that we had installed. As part of that excitement, she eagerly cooked two massive Thanksgiving sized meals for both Christmas Eve and Christmas. Although we had invited family and friends over to help us out in the eating department, our refrigerator was stuffed with leftovers after the holidays.

The only people left in our house on the day after Christmas were my wife, my twenty-something year old sister, Addie, and me. Addie was still pretty excited about all of her Christmas presents and she was still very much acting as if the holiday was still going. The Christmas tree was still decorated and lit up in our front room.  The presents were still stacked in piles around the outside edges of the front room and the Christmas candy was sitting on the table, which included a large bowl of M&Ms.  Since it still looked like it was Christmas, Addie was still under the impression that she would get special treatment that she’d received on that day.

Lunchtime rolled around and I made it clear to everybody that it would not be okay to waste any of the food in the refrigerator, and, therefore, we would all be eating leftovers until those leftovers were gone.  Addie decided that since Christmas was still going, even if only in her mind, she was going to have pancakes for lunch. This is the conversation that followed:

Me: “Addie, what do you want for lunch?”

Addie: “I’ll have pancakes”

Me: “We aren’t having pancakes, we’re having leftovers.”

Addie: “But I want pancakes.”

Me: “We are only having leftovers and pancakes are not leftovers. If you do not want leftovers, then you can go without lunch.”

Addie: “Alright.”

At this point, I turned to walk from the dining room and headed into the kitchen. As I approached the refrigerator I heard some chuckling from my wife and my sister. I ignored the laughter and began pulling the leftovers out. When I was done pulling out the leftovers, I turned to see why my wife and sister were chuckling in the background. I immediately noticed that while I had been focused on getting our meal ready, Addie had gotten up from her chair and had pulled the giant bowl of M&Ms over to her spot at the table, where she was now eating them. I shouted, “Addie, what are you doing?”  Addie responded, “You said we were having leftovers for lunch, and these M&Ms are leftovers.”


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