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Teaching Rule Synthesis with Real Cases
Journal of Legal Education (2011)
  • Paul F. Figley, American University Washington College of Law

Rule synthesis is the process of integrating a rule or principle from several cases. It is a skill attorneys and judges use on a daily basis to formulate effective arguments, develop jurisprudence, and anticipate future problems. Teaching new law students how to synthesize rules is a critical component in training them to think like lawyers.

This article suggests how rule synthesis might be taught in one classroom session using real cases. It advocates a three-part approach. First, explain the nature of rule synthesis to the students. Second, do a whimsical exercise with them to show how rule synthesis works. Finally, break into small groups and synthesize a rule from real cases for a hypothetical problem. Massachusetts judges have written a number of very short opinions regarding banana peel litigation. Accordingly, the hypothetical problem suggested involves a banana peel slip-and-fall case set in Boston. Because these opinions are so short, students will have time in class to read them and synthesize a rule from them. In working through the exercise students will see that different rules can be synthesized from the same set of cases.

Publication Date
November, 2011
Citation Information
Paul F. Figley. "Teaching Rule Synthesis with Real Cases" Journal of Legal Education Vol. 61 Iss. 2 (2011)
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