Advice for new law students, part V: avoid Monty Python “Yes it is!, No it isn’t!” argumentation

When engaging in legal analysis, avoid being conclusory.  As I tell my 1Ls, always follow the advice of Dorothy from the song Follow the Yellow-Brick Road (emphasis added):

If ever, oh ever, a Wiz there was the Wizard of Oz is one because
Because, because, because, because, because
Because
of the wonderful things he does.

Always give the “because.”  If you state a conclusion (that the Wizard of Oz is a “Wiz”), make sure you give the reasons — i.e., state the issue, rule of law, analysis, and counter-analysis — that support the conclusion.  Thus, always make sure you’ve given the “because, because, because.”  Why is he a wizard?  Because of the wonderful things he does.

Of course, Dorothy’s analysis is still lacking.  She says the Wizard of Oz is a Wiz because of the wonderful things he does.  What are those things?  Explain.  Why are those things wonderful?  Because . . . .  And so on. So Dorothy shows what should be done: always give the “becauses.”

An illustration of what not to do can be found in Monty Python’s classic sketch Argument Clinic.  When I was in law school, one of my professors would mock students who engaged in what he called “Monty Python” arguing.  In the sketch, Michael Palin buys a five-minute argument.  John Cleese, in turn, simply contradicts everything Palin says.  Exasperted, Palin argues with Cleese over what is a proper argument:

Palin:  An argument is a connected series of statements to establish a definite proposition.

Cleese:   No it isn’t.

Palin:  Yes it is! It’s isn’t just contradiction.

Cleese:   Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.

Palin:  But it isn’t just saying “No it isn’t.”

Cleese:   Yes it is!

Palin:   No it isn’t!

Cleese:   Yes it is!

Palin:  Argument’s an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.

Cleese:  No it isn’t.

Advice part I (life and stress) here.
Advice part II (studying and attitudes) here.
Advice part III (back up your data) here.
Advice part IV (essay exams) here.
Advice part V (conclusory argumentation) here.
Advice part VI (incomplete argumentation) here.

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