People are often confused about what is meant by a “legal argument”. When they think of the word “argument” they think of two people quarreling over a particular topic. Sometimes the debate gets heated and turns into yelling and other times it’s resolved by one person walking away. Rarely does an “argument” actually resolve anything other than to make parties feel better or worse, it does nothing to resolve the issue.
Legal arguments are different.
What is a Legal Argument?
When the term “legal argument” is used in the context of court, it means there is a dispute as to a question of fact or of law, usually law, and the parties are attempting to persuade the judge to rule in their favor.
Many pro se litigants (people who represent themselves in a court case) often make the mistake of arguing facts when, in reality, their situation calls for them to be arguing the law.
How to Win a Legal Argument
The way a person, whether a lawyer or a pro se litigant, wins a legal argument is by researching and understanding case law and then applying that case law to the facts in their situation.
Being good at debating/arguing is actually less important than being good at doing legal research and that is where pro se litigants most often fail miserably.
Law schools do very little as far as teaching a law student how to do legal research.There is usually just one class on that topic, and it is taught in the first year. After that, all of the classes provide the law that will be used for that class and so intense research just isn’t done very often. Instead, legal research skills are taught by the law firm for which the graduate goes to work.
Up until recently (twenty years or so ago), access to the law was usually restricted to legal digests and the books you see in every law library or on any television show involving lawyers. Now, however, with the advent of the internet very little research is actually done in the books, almost all of it is done through just a few websites.
Unfortunately, the two biggest ones, Westlaw and Lexis, are extremely expensive and want long term contracts or even higher by-the-hour pricing for access to their databases. This investment doesn’t actually teach the litigant how to research, it just provides a database on which to search.
In our book, The Guerrilla Guide to Legal Research: Finding the Law for Non-Lawyers we have taken a different position in that we teach non-lawyers the basics of doing legal research and then also provide them a link to a section of Google which contains all of the same case law that the expensive websites have but this particular location is free to use and, using the methods shown in the book, relatively easy to learn to use. Most lawyers are unaware of this free resource and thus continue to pay exorbitant fees for the same materials you can get for free!
Just as with all of The Guerrilla Guides to the Law, this book is available in an instantly downloadable PDF format (which you can read using the free Adobe Reader program), is written in a way that is easy to understand whether you are a beginner or are more experienced, and is filled with great examples. All of the Guerrilla Guides to the Law are reasonably priced and contain only information you can use. We don’t stick a bunch of extra pages of useless information in our book just to be able to justify charging a higher price.
If you are in a dispute which may lead to a lawsuit, about to be involved in a lawsuit, or have already sued or been sued, then The Guerrilla Guide to Legal Research: Finding the Law for Non-Lawyers is a must have book for your arsenal. Using the knowledge and techniques contained in the book will enable you to prepare for and win legal arguments in any forum, including small claims court, and may make the difference in winning or losing your case!