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After three years of Law, I think it’s finally starting to manifest its impact on the way I deal with the world. The nature of law as an academic discipline as well as an area of practice develops a certain way of thinking and imprints a trajectory of thought that guides the mind down a certain path of analysing the world that does not translate across into other disciplines, and that this is not only a limitation but also an effective analytical tool that conditions how I engage with the world. In a perverse way, it conditions my whole response.

The nature of legalistic thinking is that it is in a way atomistically logical. It requires you to break things down and piece it together in a small way step by step building up to any conclusion that you wish to argue for. You have to be pedantic, deliberate and slow, writing as well as thinking in a clear and concise manner towards your conclusion. It inculcates a strong culture of deference towards authority arguing by reference to what has gone before, and the decisions and opinions of others who are by their position entitled to special weight. This is especially enshrined when you consider the ranking of opinions of courts, with superior courts such as the House of Lords triumphing over the Court of Appeal and the High Court not on the grounds of their logical virtuosity, but simply because they are superior in their very existence. They precede them in the rankings of worth, and by that measure they are to be deferred to.

Furthermore law has a strong tendency to discourage, or strictly confine at least, any new development and independent directions that the law may head down. There is only a glacial acceptance of change, and a reluctance to accept new directions without a strongly substantiated case. Most lawyers think that policy determinations are made by the legislature, and that the legislature has made its decision either actively by setting the law to a certain standard, or passively by not interfering with long standing practice of the courts, and that therefore such a determination cannot be changed by the courts. They exclude from themselves the power to make such a change. The strong deference to authority stands out.

The other side of legal thinking is a strongly analytical side. You look at cases, you look at decisions, you consider what was similar what was different, how you can change variables to give a different outcome, and therefore what variables are significant. You play around with facts, principles and ideals a lot trying to find a way to apply it to the present situation and to your advantage. It is all about parallel thinking and applying them to the situation you find yourself if you are really thinking about the situation.

The nature of this thinking results in you having to apply very strong analytical thinking to the situation and it transfers into your daily life. It governs your response to all situations. To adapt an analogy, when all you have is a hammer, all your problems start to look like nails. And the problem with this is that it doesn’t work very well with the rest of life. You start to over-analyse and think things through in strict and logical terms that don’t work. You need to think in different ways to get through different parts of life and my adoption of my training has not worked well to let me deal with the laid back nature of intellectual rigour that is required in day to day operations. It something I’ve realised is getting problematic because some of my friends have accused me of being far too analytical in my normal time, and its time to dial down the seriousness and to take things a little easier.

Its an odd feeling to realise that you are adopting a mind set. You have a potent new weapon in your grasp, that is sharper and more adept then it has ever been at its task, but the shape of the blade means that it forever is confined in how it can be wielded, which is truly as much a limitation as a liberation from intellectual difficulty. That certain pathways of thinking are being closed to you because you just cannot think in that way anymore, the historical dialectic or the philosophical argument is a form that requires a lot more effort now to get my head around than it did when I had to deal with them previously. It requires a constant effort to realise that the styles of my chosen subject don’t need to be followed and that convention and authority are not so strictly relevant, giving me flexibility that I can use to my advantage. It’s just weird when you realise that educating yourself has actually in a way restricted your options as much as it has enhanced them, your whole thinking being conditioned to give an argument that satisfy an entirely artificial rigour condition.