The phrase "thinking like a lawyer" maintains as much relevance to today's legal academy as it ever has. In the face of recent criticism that the ideas connected with the concept of "thinking like a lawyer," e.g., the case law method with its focus on the adversarial litigation process, the fact is that legal educators must still teach their students to "think like lawyers." Critics have complained that the narrow focus of this traditional concept unduly restricts the ability of law students to develop refined analytical and practical skills which go beyond the adversarial context. In one sense these critics are correct. New lawyers need to move beyond the narrow focus that the set of skills which the term "thinking like a lawyer" entails. This does not mean, however, that entering law students should not be exposed to the traditional methods of analysis and reasoning that the law school curriculum has been designed to highlight. On the contrary, it is vitally important that all law students be exposed to the narrow notion of "thinking like a lawyer." This ensures a conceptually and professionally congruent entre to the community they chose to join. It is, in a larger sense, a lived experience which all lawyers share in the acting out of their professional being. In essence, the notion of "thinking like a lawyer" that law school professors have traditionally inculcated is an ontology that lawyers need in order to become a member of the community of practitioners. After students are initiated in this ontology, they are prepared to more critically assess the strengths and weakness of the traditional adversarial method of problem solving. Once this is done, the more expansive skills of "lawyering" can be developed. In other words, the set of skills which are inherent in the traditional concept of "thinking like a lawyer" are a necessary foundation for the more robust and developed skills and analytical abilities that practicing lawyers need to be effective practitioners.
David T. ButleRitchie, Situating Thinking like a Lawyer within Legal Pedagogy, 50 Clev. St. L. Rev. 29 (2002-2003)