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Reasoning and analysis: Legal skills that have not crumbled with time | William Poulos

Tuesday, May 11, 2021 @ 9:13 AM | By William Poulos


William Poulos %>
William Poulos
Reasoned written judgments will often follow a basic organizational pattern. Introduction, facts, issues, analysis, conclusion. Around this general format which finds favour in a number of judgments, there will also be appropriate subheadings of organization given the unique circumstances of each case. Each area is a focus centre for the court on the road to a just resolution. The court must get the facts and issues right and provide a just, logical resolution to the case, with the assistance of counsel.

Aristotle once said that “Time crumbles things; everything grows old under the power of Time and is forgotten through the lapse of Time.” This, of course, is true in many areas. Our precedents may get stale and need to be updated with changing times. Statutes get revised. Technology constantly sweeps around us and what once was a strictly paper profession has opened the doors to digital evidence, Zoom and Microsoft team hearings, to mention only a very few technological changes.

However, time does not crumble certain skills in our profession. We will always need clear communication with the court and our clients. We will always need a set of facts and appropriate laws to help decide a case. Last but not least, we will always need reasoning: The analysis of the case leading to the just resolution.

Reasoning is a concrete pillar of our legal system not easily crumbled by time. It will never grow old as it is core to the process taking us to a just resolution. It is in the reasoning section where persuasive arguments come alive, non-persuasive arguments are doomed and a harmony is reached between the material facts and the appropriate legal principles.

It is also in this section where important distinctions are made. Time will never crumble the need for reasoning. In our legal reasoning there are many references to “reasonable.”

Our legal analysis in many areas is highly dependent on applying reasonableness principles. For example, we have used a reasonableness lens to assess tribunal decisions, to review the chance of a successful prosecution, to assess the merits of a civil action, to draw inferences from evidence, to determine if reasonable doubts apply in criminal matters, to assess the fairness of a civil costs claim, to assess grounds for arrest, to assess allegations of court bias, to determine if a party should be added to a lawsuit, to assess the time taken to get a case to trial, and to review the merits of a proposed settlement, to name only a few examples in a few areas of law. Determining what is reasonable is core to our legal reasoning.

We can’t have a reasonable, just decision without going down the analysis road. Facts and issues are barren without the legal analysis to bring them alive.

Although many things may crumble in time, the imperishable, core skills of reasoning and analysis will always be there when legal issues arise requiring a just, reasonable resolution. Time can take many things away but it can’t erase the need for these core skills.

Time may actually help us enhance these core skills with gifts of technology and ways to research, summarize and pinpoint key points and principles to enhance our reasoning, analytical skills. Although the skills are imperishable, they also are not fixed in the sense that they are capable of improving with changing times and tools that become available to counsel and the courts.

Aristotle was passionate on subjects such as logic and reasoning. The judiciary, lawyers and legal educators are all gatekeepers of these essential skills in our legal system. Public confidence in the administration of justice is enhanced when these skills are effectively demonstrated and the results clearly communicated.

William Poulos has practised civil litigation for over 30 years and is a sole practitioner in Kingston, Ont.

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