How to think like a lawyer

Sometimes in life you’re going to need a lawyer, but no matter why situation you’re dealing with, it’s never a bad idea to think like a lawyer.

Thinking like a lawyer comes down to a few things. Coming to conclusions thanks to reasoning as opposed to emotion, exercising cool logic, problem-solving skills, and precise analysis.

It’s something that many of us wish we could do. Whether we are having a heated exchange with a business partner, a spouse, a friend, or a colleague, it can be easy to let emotions take over. But that is not the way. If you’ve ever gotten in an emotional argument with a personal relation you know that things can quickly spiral out of control.

The truth is, it’s the kind of cold, calculated mental weaponry that can protect you from unhelpful, inflammatory emotions in an argument.

It might sound like an impossible task, but it really isn’t.

The ability to use legal reasoning in everyday life is not a skill reserved only to those who earn a law degree. Like learning a new skill or a new language, thinking like a lawyer is a technique that can be developed and learned with time.

A word of warning – it takes time, practice, patiences, and sometimes a willingness to sound a bit smug or pretentious. But if it takes getting what you want, it can all be quite worth it.

Here are some good ways to get started on your journey.

Become a smooth word operator

Lawyers are competitive people, they want to win, and sometimes winning an argument comes down to simply sounding smarter than the person on the other side. Sometimes, all that means is using big words and thinly veiled jabs.

This is a strategy used by many lawyers to gain an advantage when competing with colleagues and competitors.

Still, if you want to use the trial-lawyer technique of speaking with a silver tongue, you’re going to have to actually brush up on some grammar and vocabulary.

Look through the dictionary and thesaurus, spend time reading great works of fiction and non-fiction. These are great places to start and great ways to not only gain an upper-hand in conversation, but also become a smarter person.

Have a plan for every scenario

One of the biggest aspects of thinking like a lawyer is preparing for things that may or may not come to pass. If you know that a conversation or situation is on the horizon, it is your job to plan and predict the future. This means you will likely have to do risk assessments before making a big decision. You will have to consider all your options, all possible potentialities, and how your options might change depending on what does come to occur.

Like a game of checkers or chess, taking time to methodically plan out your potential future moves based on the moves your opponent is likely to take. The habit of thinking before acting is a smart thing to adopt in nearly all phases of life. It’s part of why lawyers have a reputation of being risk-averse and incredibly methodical.

While this can be quite a lot of hard work, the benefits are incredible. Thinking into the future and thinking about what may come to pass means that you will likely never be surprised by unforeseen negative outcomes of your decisions in personal or professional contexts.

Before taking a course of action, spend some time on your own or with your advisors considering what could potentially go right and what could go wrong.

If you come across something in a discussion that you did not expect, there is also nothing wrong with taking some personal time to yourself during the conversation. Think before you answer a question, and never feel as though you need to have all the answers immediately.

Problem solve and analyze it all

Analytical skills are at the core of the ways lawyers solve nearly all problems and issues.

Analytical thinking allows you to visualize, articulate, conceptualize, and solve simple and complex problems by making educated decisions and taking calculated risks based on available information.

It is equally important to try to not get bogged down in irrelevant details but focus on the most relevant and critical information. In thinking like a lawyer, you will look for the material facts and evidence to support your case. Then, look for a conclusion you can come to given the facts available to you and available to your opponents.

Keep it objective

This is one of the most important things to keep in mind when you are engaging in an oppositional situation.

Leave your emotions at the door, lawyers are masters at it, and you should be too. Submitting to your feelings leave you vulnerable to making mistakes, it clouds your judgement and prevents you from making the best decision in the circumstances.

The ability to tease the emotions out of every situating, including inflamed personal conflicts, is one of the many reasons why lawyers are often seen as non-feeling and robotic.

In the end, it is important to remember that lawyers have not been told some secret truth of the universe to get what they want. They’ve just been given a certain set of skills to get the upper hand in discussions and disagreements.

Using skills similar to the ones you have just read about can give you a similar upper hand. So, the next time you are facing a confrontational situation with a business partner, spouse, friend, or more, considering utilizing some of these methods to start thinking like a lawyer.

Good luck!

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