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Publication Date

Fall 2014


When lawyers think of legal analysis, they think chiefly of logic and reason. Stories are secondary. As Michael Smith explains, our legal system “is not founded on narrative reasoning” but on “a commitment to the rule of law.” The article suggests that this dichotomy between “rule-based reasoning” and “narrative reasoning” is false, and that narrative and stories are central to legal reasoning, including rule-based reasoning. In doing so, the article uses literary narrative theory to show that every governing legal rule has the structure of a “stock story”: the elements of the rule correspond to elements of a story. It follows that lawyers do not rely on stories simply because they are persuasive. They do so because a story is literally embedded in the structure of governing rules, and those rules can be satisfied only by telling a story. Thus, many analytical moves we label “rule-based reasoning” can be understood as a type of narrative reasoning, in which a client’s story is compared to and contrasted with the stock story embedded in the rule.

Publication Title

Legal Communications & Rhetoric: JALWD

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