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The Five Types of Legal Argument


  1. Introduction; Textual Arguments – Plain Meaning, Canons of Construction, and Intratextual Arguments (6/18/2013 7-8pm)
  2. Historical Arguments – Intent, Precedent, and Tradition (6/20/2013 7-8pm)
  3. Policy Arguments (6/25/2013 7-8pm)
  4. Identifying and Attacking the Different Types of Arguments (6/26/2013 7-8pm)
  5. The Stages of Legal Reasoning – Logic, Analogy, and Policy (6/27/2013 7-8pm)

Why take this course?

“How could it be,” I wondered. “How is it possible that people can legitimately disagree as to what the law is?” I can understand how people can argue about what the facts of a case are. People lie or are mistaken. But law is different, I thought. I thought that the law is something absolute and pure, and that people who are well-informed, intellectually honest, and fiercely dedicated to the rule of law should all come to the same conclusion as to what the law is. Why do people even disagree about a basic question such as precisely what our fundamental rights are? After all, you would think that if our Constitution is a law, surely someone is right and someone is wrong about the meaning of the Constitution - one side is being faithful to the Constitution and the other is being unfaithful.

However, the idea of "the law" as a single, unitary concept is in part an illusion. The reason that intelligent people of good faith may legitimately disagree about the meaning of the Constitution (or the meaning of any law) is that law arises from multiple sources, and different people consider different sources of the law to be more or less authoritative.

This program will explain what the different sources of law are, and the different types of legal arguments that spring from those sources.

Who should enroll?

I have presented this program to judges, lawyers, and laypersons, but it is perhaps most valuable to law students and persons about to enter law school. When a professor calls upon us in class, it is our earnest hope that when we open our mouths to speak, something will come out! In this five-part program I will teach you about the different types of legal arguments, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. You will learn how to identify, attack, and evaluate the merits of legal arguments.

Brief summary of the five types of argument

As noted above, law is not pure and homogenous. It is instead composed of many elements. Like a river it draws upon many sources, and to understand the law it is necessary to trace every argument to its source.

Law is based upon legal text, the drafters’ intent, judicial precedent, the traditions of the people, and (hopefully) sound policy. The five types of argument are therefore text, intent, precedent, tradition, and policy. This program explores the content of each type of argument (that is, the data that judges and lawyers use to construct each type of argument), the structure of each type of argument, the characteristic strengths and weaknesses of each type of argument, how to construct persuasive arguments, how to attack legal arguments, and how to evaluate the their relative persuasiveness.

Professor Wilson Huhn
Professor Wilson HuhnWilson Huhn is a C. Blake McDowell, Jr., Professor of Law at the University of Akron School of Law. He is the author of four books, two dozen law review articles, and hundreds of essays. He has published widely in the fields of Constitutional Law and Jurisprudence, and often addresses judges and lawyers on those subjects. The graduating class has selected Huhn as the “Outstanding Professor” on six occasions.
Registration Information
  • The courses will be streamed live via WebEx
  • Attendance is FREE
  • Registration for the courses is REQUIRED
  • There is a maximum capacity for each presentation so please register as soon as possible
  • Each course will be available for purchase online and on demand after the live broadcast
  • For questions contact

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You will be registered for all of the courses after completing this form.

Seats Remaining: $capacity
6/18/2013 7:00pm-8:00pm EST
Introduction; Textual Arguments – Plain Meaning, Canons of Construction, and Intratextual Arguments
6/20/2013 7:00pm-8:00pm EST
Historical Arguments – Intent, Precedent, and Tradition
6/25/2013 7:00pm-8:00pm EST
Policy Arguments
6/26/2013 7:00pm-8:00pm EST
Identifying and Attacking the Different Types of Arguments
6/27/2013 7:00pm-8:00pm EST
The Stages of Legal Reasoning – Logic, Analogy, and Policy
Professor Huhn's Book Reviews
Bimonthly Review of Law Books, Volume 14, No. 1, January/February 2003, page 17 (reviewing the book and referring to it as “fascinating”) .
Scott Wood, Clinical Professor, Loyola Law School (Los Angeles), Writing the Right Legal Arguments on Short Notice, Los Angeles County Bar Update, January 2008, Vol. 28, No. 1,click here (reviewing the book and referring to it as “splendid” and “invaluable”)
Robert F. Blomquist (Professor, Valparaiso Law School), in Ten Vital Virtues for American Public Lawyers, 39 Ind. L. Rev. 493, 511 (2006):

Professor Wilson Huhn’s masterful book, The Five Types of Legal Argument, is, at its heart, a call for lawyerly creativity. Huhn explains that it requires creativity and inventiveness to fashion five basic types of legal argument, applicable across the board in every specialty of law from admiralty to zoning: (1) text-based arguments, (2) claims based on intent, (3) precedent-focused contentions, (4) arguments rooted in tradition, and (5) policy analysis.

Huhn points out in this regard that since “[t]he law is not smooth and pure like distilled water,” but, rather, is like a “wild river” that is “fed by tributaries which arise from myriad wellsprings,” and in order “[t]o master the law” we must imaginatively “trace each and every legal argument to its source.” Utilizing creativity himself, Professor Huhn provides an alternative image of the law as consisting of “different voices.” Thus, he concludes that “the greatest challenge we face in studying the law is to recognize and understand each of the voices of the law, and to express ourselves with every voice.”

Almas Khan, Assistant Professor of Law, University of La Verne College of Law, in A Compendium of Legal Writing Sources, 50 Washburn Law Journal 395, 402 (2011):

Professor Huhn delineates five categories of legal arguments--text, intent, precedent, tradition, and policy--and explains tactics for identifying, creating, evaluating, and critiquing each one through examples from judicial opinions. Intra-type attacks and cross-type arguments are discussed at length, and the book's theoretical construct is logically tested after Huhn establishes its premises. Huhn's artful interweaving of theory and practice has led several leading law schools to assign this text. Its systematic exploration of the strengths and weaknesses of each argument type, based on the different structure and evidentiary support underpinning each, affirms that its insights can help advanced legal writers craft more cogent legal arguments.