The truth is, there is no real mystery to it at all. "Thinking like a lawyer" means to think like a lawyer thinks. "Circular proposition", you philosophy/ logic majors may declare. Let me explain. As with everything law school, I assumed that everything; every assertion, every argument, every point made had to logically equate. After all, we learn early in law school about precedent and the legitimacy of the law. The law has to be logical and make sense, in order for it to maintain its legitimacy. So, I assumed that the definition of "thinking like a lawyer" had to be composed of specific concepts, as legitimized by the actions of the universe of lawyers.
But as any Trekkie knows, as logical as he was, things simply didn't always add up for Mr. Spock. This is because different people have different perspectives. And those perspectives cause each of us to think differently about the same things.
And this is why I landed on the definition that I did for the concept of "thinking like a lawyer." If you want to know what it means, you have to know how lawyers think.
I've been in practice for a while now, and have worked with many lawyers. I have known many law students as well. And I frequently see characteristics in some law students that lead me to believe that they will become great lawyers one day. This is not because I believe that one day, they will unlock a secret, ancient book that will yield the secrets of the ages about the practice of law to them. It's because they are smart, hardworking, passionate and rational human beings. And these traits will enable them to do the things that successful lawyers do. Successful lawyers work hard for their clients. Successful lawyers are rational and reasonable. Successful lawyers care about their client's issues a great deal. Successful lawyers look for every opportunity to find advantage for their clients.
Certainly, good lawyering means relying on facts and effectively applying the law to those facts. A lot of law students master this piece early in law school and think they've mastered the legal reasoning process. And perhaps they have. But I would argue that a computer program can do the same thing. Real mastery includes legal reasoning, but it also means a great deal more. And it's the "more" part that leads to true knowledge of what "thinking like a lawyer" means.
And the good news, dear law student, is that you are probably well along the way to learning to "think like a lawyer." Chances are, you are already pretty smart (you got into law school, didn't you?). You probably already know what hard work means. And you are probably passionate about any number of issues.
So, my message to you is to think less about the mechanics of the lawyering process and allow yourself to become a great lawyer. Use your God-given talents and abilities for the greater good. Become zealous advocates for your clients and learn to give them the very best possible advice.
You can do this.