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Law as Engineering: Thinking About What Lawyers Do Paperback – 28 Feb 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd (28 Feb. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 178254013X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1782540137
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 728,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'The book is well referenced throughout as one would expect with Elgar's highly academic publications... There is always a place for a new concept in the incomplete and developing world of jurisprudence and Howarth treats us to a delightful option which will amuse some, baffle others but generally adds to the continuing legal and philosophical debate which is the new twenty-first century jurisprudence.' --Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor, The Barrister Magazine

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Phillip Taylor TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 11 May 2013
Format: Hardcover
Length: 0:32 Mins
CONCERNED WITH DESIGN RATHER THAN LITIGATION

An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers

It's a wonderful, and novel, jurisprudential concept to look at the law (and possibly legal theory) as a design with devices similar to those used by engineers rather than as the basis of a philosophical set of rules to guide our behaviour.

David Howarth has trodden a courageous path here by offering a new approach which is set out in his innovative work "Law as Engineering" from Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.

The book is well referenced throughout as one would expect with Elgar's highly academic publications. Howarth's starting point really begins in chapter 2- what do lawyers do?- when he writes: "The popular image of lawyers is all about litigation".

This sweeping observation is very much the perception of the general public, especially concerning what one performs as Counsel in court. Of course, in reality it's just one of many activities which lawyers perform but the concept leads on to chapter 3 - "law-as-engineering" - which is the heart of the book.

In chapter 3 Howarth states: what is the service that lawyers offer their clients? This is where we actually think about what we give: the comparison between the function of a lawyer and an engineer is compared and contrasted to identify those matters which are common to both jobs. It is a bit technical but it is a fair point!

On the basis that Howarth has provided a justification for his thesis, he then goes on to examine its main implications. They cover the role of professional ethics, legal research and teaching which offer many similarities between the two occupations/functions thus strengthening his basic view.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Great Tool for Fresh Perspective 14 Oct. 2013
By James Mcritchie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Law As Engineering: Thinking About What Lawyers Do takes a creative approach to law; instead of seeing law as closely associated with philosophy or economics, David Howarth points to legal design. Most attorneys aren't involved in litigation. Like engineers, they are often hired to provide services not in the abstract but for particular purposes, mostly to facilitate transactions or deals.

Law firms sometimes design innovations, such as the `poison pill," which can then be marketed to their clients or used to attract new ones. Howarth cites examples of Silicon Valley law firms investing their own money in start-ups they advise and goes on to discusses examples in family law and government where wills are designed to meet client goals and withstand legal challenges and regulations are crafted to formalize powers and obligations.

Howarth argues that for scientists, understanding is the end goal, whereas for engineers understanding is a means to an end, the end of making useful things. Indeed, when asked if they would rather invent something useful or discover new knowledge, engineers preferred invention, whereas scientists preferred discovery. Unlike engineers, the problems lawyers tackle involve relationships between people, not concrete. Systems theory is useful in both. Legal devices that ignore conditions are unlikely to work.

After teasing out his analogy, Howarth explores its implications on professional ethics, research and teaching. He discusses the fall of Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and the big short and asks if we can learn something from the longstanding concerns of engineers for safety, public welfare and "many hands" situations where responsibilities are widely dispersed. Citing how engineering has evolved, Howarth opines that where lawyers lacked the expertise necessary to understand the impact of risk-multiplying devices such as synthetic CDOs, that "should have been a spur to change, not an excuse for inaction." Like engineers who had to develop an understanding of human behavior to ensure safety, lawyers should have thought out the consequences by testing legal prototypes before widespread adoption.

Does the new vision of law work? Yes, I think it does offer new insights and much might be borrowed from the engineering profession. It could also change the type of students attracted to law, the self-image of the profession, how public policy debates are framed and where to turn for allies. The financial crash provided a massive example of how lawyers can do harm. Howarth concludes: "to adopt the guise of engineers without also adopting the ethical standards that apply to them would be opportunistic, callow and self-serving. Lawyers can do better than that."

Let us hope attorneys build not only on the engineering analogy but also on Howarth's ethical advice.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Law as a profession and discipline.... 11 May 2013
By Phillip Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
CONCERNED WITH DESIGN RATHER THAN LITIGATION

An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers

It's a wonderful, and novel, jurisprudential concept to look at the law (and possibly legal theory) as a design with devices similar to those used by engineers rather than as the basis of a philosophical set of rules to guide our behaviour.

David Howarth has trodden a courageous path here by offering a new approach which is set out in his innovative work "Law as Engineering" from Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.

The book is well referenced throughout as one would expect with Elgar's highly academic publications. Howarth's starting point really begins in chapter 2- what do lawyers do?- when he writes: "The popular image of lawyers is all about litigation".

This sweeping observation is very much the perception of the general public, especially concerning what one performs as Counsel in court. Of course, in reality it's just one of many activities which lawyers perform but the concept leads on to chapter 3 - "law-as-engineering" - which is the heart of the book.

In chapter 3 Howarth states: what is the service that lawyers offer their clients? This is where we actually think about what we give: the comparison between the function of a lawyer and an engineer is compared and contrasted to identify those matters which are common to both jobs. It is a bit technical but it is a fair point!

On the basis that Howarth has provided a justification for his thesis, he then goes on to examine its main implications. They cover the role of professional ethics, legal research and teaching which offer many similarities between the two occupations/functions thus strengthening his basic view.

The concluding chapter reviews Howarth's thesis and examines the 4 possible objections to treating law as a form of engineering.

For jurisprudential purposes they comprise: (1)although it might be true in quantitative terms that lawyers mainly engage in activity that can be described in terms of engineering, in some other, qualitative, sense, those activities are not as important as litigation and adjudication.

(2) law-as-engineering is merely the latest in a line of instrumentalist conceptions of law- it being a mistake to treat law as a means to an end.
(3) treating law as a form of engineering encourages manipulative behavior that fails to respect human autonomy.

(4) law-as-engineering breaks the link between law and justice and replaces it with a technocratic view imbued with the worst aspects of legal positivism.

There is always a place for a new concept in the incomplete and developing world of jurisprudence and Howarth treats us to a delightful option which will amuse some, baffle others but generally adds to the continuing legal and philosophical debate which is the new twenty-first century jurisprudence.
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