Law as Engineering
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Law as Engineering

Thinking About What Lawyers Do

David Howarth

Law as Engineering proposes a radically new way of thinking about law, as a profession and discipline concerned with design rather than with litigation, and having much in common with engineering in the way it produces devices useful for its clients. It uses that comparison to propose ways of improving legal design, to advocate a transformation of legal ethics so that the profession learns from its role in the crash of 2008, and to reform legal education and research.
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Chapter 6: Conclusion

Thinking About What Lawyers Do

David Howarth


We began with the question of how we should characterise what lawyers do. We have made the claim that characterising what lawyers do as engineering is both accurate and useful. It is accurate because it captures more of what lawyers do, both in private practice and in public service, than characterisations based on assuming that lawyers are engaged in litigation or on those that proceed from some form of evaluation, whether positive (lawyer-as-hero, lawyer-as-statesman) or negative (lawyer-as-trickster, lawyer-as-hired-gun). It is useful because it provides a sound starting point for appraising what lawyers do, through the application of engineering ethics to their activities, and for improving their performance, through searching for principles of effective design. Accuracy and utility might be thought to be enough, but we should consider some possible objections to thinking about law in engineering terms, and this chapter takes on that task. It also speculates on some possible further benefits of the approach and closes with a reflection on how seeing lawyers as engineers might save them from a repetition of the part they played in the Great Crash of 2008.

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