Tuesday, September 23, 2014

To Think Like a Lawyer. To think like a Christian.

After completing his first year of law school, Jack was thoroughly convinced that his decision [to go to law school] was the right one.  In college, there typically was a right or wrong answer to any question under study and included in an exam.  A good memory basically assured the student of a good test score and a good understanding of the subject matter.

The study of law differed significantly from the approach taken in learning the course material in college courses.  In law school, there were rarely right or wrong answers.  Jack was soon convinced that the study of law, using the casebook approach to learning the applicable law and the so-called "Socratic" method of teaching law, that is, engaging the students in the discussion of the case under study, were designed to prepare the student to think like a lawyer – not necessarily to learn the then applicable law.

-from Gutierrez, Jr., Max, "The Life and Death of John J. Stevens, Esq. as a member of the Legal Profession," in ACTEC Law Journal, Spring 2013/Fall 2013, at 182,183.

I would say that to think like a Christian about a question ought to be very much the way a lawyer is to think about a question.  Underlying a case discussion in the law school classroom is the notion that somewhere in the facts presented in the given case and in the history of the law going back to Moses and before as that history might relate to the facts, there is an answer, there is a just rule for the case.  There is also the notion that we can never get to the just rule, the perfect application, because the whole thing is simply too complex.  So the matter is approached - or should be approached - with humility but also with the idea that we must come to a decision,  recommend it, be ready to defend that decision, and then move on.

I think this way of thinking would serve Christians well.  We have a crucial set of beliefs about a creator-God, his loving nature, his engagement with his creation, what  he expects of us, and how he has chosen to deal with us in light of the way we often choose not to meet those expectations. As to that expectation, we have the rule.  He calls us to apply that rule to "the facts presented [to us] in a given case."  In the difficult cases, we struggle to find the right answer - and there are many more difficult cases that come before us than we often think.  There is grace in the law school classroom, where we students, by educational necessity, are never able to come up with an answer that satisfies the professor, no matter what we do.  The grace is that we may come back again to the next class and struggle with more cases as we learn how to think lawyerly.  There is God's grace as well.  He does not expel us from the world in which he reigns.  Instead, we learn, we become more aware of the difficulty of cases that perhaps at one time we thought were easy ones.  We see that God calls us to struggle with them, to make a decision, and finally to move on.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What Does Leonard Say? Well, He Won't be Saying Anymore.

Around our house for as long as I can remember, there was "Leonard."  By that I mean a Leonard Maltin Movie Guide was always somewhere within 15 feet or so of the TV, because we love to watch movies.  Whenever someone in the family mentioned a movie title or tripped over something that looked like a movie while channel surfing, someone else would ask, "What does Leonard say?"  It didn't hurt that the Miami Herald reviewers seemed never to meet a decent movie that they liked - unless it also promoted an item on the Herald cultural or political agenda.  But we would have latched onto Leonard anyway, buying a new edition about every two years or so.  In fact, the time is ripe for a new one, because the one on hand right now is the 2012 edition.

But Leonard won't be sayin' anymore.  The 2015 guide, CNN reports, will be his last: 

"I saw it coming a couple years ago," said Maltin, 63.  "There were pretty consistent strong sales for many, many years, and that started to change.  It came as a kind of a jolt."

Leonard points to the internet as the villain here.  With all due respect to the great man, however, he seems to me simply to be quitting.  Why not completely morph online?  (The CNN article states that he will remain online as a sort of blog on Indiewire.) The web would seem a logical place to move the whole enterprise, especially in light of the sheer volume of material out there - which several years ago required him to divide his treasure trove of reviews between the guide-proper and something called Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide.  (And a web edition doesn't have to allow access without charge.) The guide already has a Kindle edition, for not much less than Amazon's print book - isn't there enough profit in that to keep the thing going?

Family, the 2015 Guide is on the Christmas list - and maybe the Classic Movie Guide too.  Leonard will continue to speak around our house.

(Note to kids: He still gives Miss Firecracker three stars.)