by William Powers
edited by John Deigh
University of Texas Press, 2023
eISBN: 978-1-4773-2643-5 | Cloth: 978-1-4773-2641-1
Library of Congress Classification KF380.P69 2023
Dewey Decimal Classification 349.7309


The way lawyers think about the law can seem deeply mysterious. They see nuance and meaning in statutes and implications in judicial opinions that are opaque to the rest of us. Accessible and thought provoking, Sharpening the Legal Mind explains how lawyers analyze the cases and controversies that come before the courts.

Written by William Powers Jr., the former president of the University of Texas at Austin, this book is an authoritative introduction to the academic study of law and legal reasoning, including insights into the philosophy of law and the intellectual history of legal thought. Powers discusses the methods lawyers use to interpret the law, the relation between law and morals, and the role of courts in shaping the law. In eight chapters, he follows the historical debate on these issues and others through different generations and movements in American legal thought—formalism, realism, positivism—to critical legal studies and postmodern theory. The perfect read for anyone looking for a primer on legal reasoning, Sharpening the Legal Mind demystifies the debates and approaches to thinking like a lawyer that profoundly influence the rule of law in our lives.

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