Law professor pens book about reasoning techniques


By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Brad Charles, an assistant professor of Research & Writing at Cooley Law School, has a new book, “Applying Law,” published in April by Carolina Academic Press.

The book gives students a tool belt of specific reasoning techniques, teaching them the skill of applying law to fact — a talent that determines law school grades and effective advocacy after law school.

Charles is sharing expertise based on his own experience as a law clerk for the 21st Circuit Court in Michigan’s Isabella County.

“I wrote ‘Applying Law’ so students wouldn’t commit the same crime that most attorneys committed when writing their briefs,” he says. “They simply had to explain how the law was or was not satisfied. When I started teaching, I quickly found it was tough to explain something I did intuitively.”

So Charles studied how the United States Supreme Court reasoned, and read more than 22,000 sentences from the 2008-09 term, classifying each sentence into one of 27 different reasoning techniques.  

“I eventually narrowed them down to nine reasoning techniques, so it’s much more likely that students will learn them,” he says. “And that’s the point of the book — to explain those nine reasoning techniques.” This is his first book, and Charles eventually plans to produce a textbook for writing in the law.

“But I won’t do that alone,” he says. “I hope to partner with my much more talented colleagues.”

When Charles isn’t writing books for students, he’s teaching students — at the same law school where he earned his law degree after earning a bachelor’s degree in international law with an emphasis in Russian Studies from Brigham Young University.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the line between societal chaos and societal order is simply faith in the legal system,” he says.

“I went to Cooley because of a great scholarship and focus on making practice-ready graduates. I loved my Research & Writing class. I loved my professor, and I loved knowing the department was run by a nationally known guru of plain English, Professor Joseph Kimble.

“Now that I teach at Cooley, I really feel I have a dream job because I get to practice law and have the creative outlet and challenge of teaching others to clearly communicate and deeply analyze.”

He enjoys teaching his law students the power in being heard.  

“So many attorneys who write briefs to the court think they are being heard, but they aren’t,” he says.  “I was a law clerk for two years. So often, the case came down to what was written in the briefs — not what occurred during oral argument because the judge usually had a pre-written opinion in front of him during oral arguments.

“Early in my law clerk career, I would read each brief from beginning to end. But I quickly learned they weren’t actually worth reading. Why? Because they simply stated the conclusion that their client should win. I didn’t need a brief to figure that out! There were usually a few cases or statutes thrown in - but there was rarely any analysis.”

A native of Medford, Ore., Charles, before joining the Cooley faculty full-time, served as a visiting professor.

As a student at Cooley, he was Assistant Editor and Scholarly Writing Editor for the Law Review, received the Krasicky Award given to the editor who makes the most significant contribution, earned Certificates of Merit in Constitutional Law I, Property II, Advance Writing, Sales, and Estate Planning; and was on the Dean’s List and Honor Roll.

His publications include a plain-English pamphlet on garnishment procedure and an article advocating fair business taxation. He also presented on reasoning at the Legal Writing Institute’s 2008 and 2010 biennial conferences.

A believer in giving back to the community, he has been involved with Project Homeless Connect, United Way Day of Caring, Elder Law of Michigan, Inc., and pro bono legal representation.

Charles and his wife Diana live in Novi, with their two daughters, ages 3 and 1. In his spare time, he enjoys golfing — and wishes he could spend more time on the back nine — and remodeling his home.

“I put myself through college by remodeling homes and maintaining apartments,” he says. “I can’t seem to stop. Just last week I rented a Bobcat for a week to excavate my backyard for a paver patio.

“I also love to read, camp, and cook. But nothing beats giggling with my girls.”