The Tools of Argument:
How The Best Lawyers Think, Argue, and Win

by Joel P. Trachtman

Because it's more fun to win arguments than lose them

Have you ever been in the midst of a discussion or argument regarding business, politics, legal matters, family responsibilities, or any other contentious topic and felt that your opponent did not have the “right” position, but had the better argument? Why is it that some people—often lawyers—can use reasoned arguments to debate with frustrating effectiveness? Perhaps you wished that you had a greater repertoire of skills to make your points, and win!

If you are a law student or pre-law student, this book will accelerate your learning with a comprehensive set of principles to guide your legal education. If you are a trained lawyer or paralegal, this book will give you a framework for analysis and argument that will enhance your effectiveness. If you are a businessperson or government official, these essential tools of argument will increase your odds of winning any dispute.

This book is for anyone who enjoys critical thinking, persuasive presentation of ideas, and victory in argument. After all, winning arguments is much more fun than losing them. 

The Book

#1 Best Seller in Trial Practice on Amazon

The Tools of Argument: How the Best Lawyers Think, Argue, and Win presents in plain and lucid terms the powerful tools of argument that have been honed through the ages in the discipline of law. The book provides a comprehensive exposition of all the types of arguments one can make in reasoned discourse, and various opposing arguments with which to counter them. 

The legal foundation of the tools of argument is a critical one. The techniques have evolved and survived over the course of many centuries because they have inherent, compelling logic, grounded in legal systems that aim to create societal order and fairness. People respond to these arguments not because a speaker is overbearing, manipulative, or charismatic, but because they see the logic of the argument. When you bring this compelling logic to bear in legal encounters, as well as in business or interpersonal settings, you will be more persuasive. 

Table of Contents

1. Introduction to the Law

2. Legal Thinking

3. Arguing in a Legal System: Procedure

4. Arguing About the Meaning of Texts: Interpretation

5. Argument From Precedent

6. Arguing About Facts

7. Rhetorical Tricks

8. Arguing About Substantive Responsibility

9. Who Knows What Lurks in the Minds of Lawyers?

10. Winning Arguments with Reasoned Persuasion

The Author

Joel P. Trachtman

Joel P. Trachtman is Professor of International Law at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

At Fletcher, I teach and do research in the areas of trade law, international business transactions, immigration, and law and economics.  I joined the faculty at the Fletcher School in the Fall of 1989 after nine years of private practice. My academic passion is figuring out the ways that legal systems and structures can improve our world. My former students are living and working across the globe as lawyers, bankers, trade and finance ministers, NGO leaders, and entrepreneurs.

As a practicing attorney at Shearman & Sterling Law Firm in NYC and Hong Kong, I litigated and negotiated merger and acquisition and other deals and wrote contracts for U.S., German, Swedish, Japanese and Chinese clients. I enjoyed explaining to clients how different legal arguments could be used in order to assert their interests. I especially enjoyed deploying these arguments myself in give-and-take with other lawyers. 

Why I Wrote This Book

  • I believe that skills in reasoned argument are essential to success as a lawyer, business person, or government leader
  • Most law schools (or business and public policy programs) do not teach these skills
  • The tools of argument are not difficult to learn
  • No other book zeroes-in on the core skills of argumentation - explaining both the valuable legal context and the applicability to business dealings and "life itself!"

For Students & Professors

Enhance your Law School Education

The Tools of Argument: How the Best Lawyers Think, Argue, and Win  jump-starts students’ legal education and makes them more effective learners. They’ll have strategies to help them participate early on in classroom debates with skill and confidence.

The Tools of Argument provides a framework that helps students identify and place in context the arguments they find in cases and secondary materials. Though not a textbook, readers gain instruction in legal analysis techniques, and learn concepts of procedure, interpretation, evidence, reference to precedent, and more. 

Law Students will gain:

  • A  unique critical thinking perspective to enhance learning across law school courses – from constitutional law, to legal methods, to torts. 
  • Skills for developing tight, winning arguments to engage professors and peers
  • Practical approaches to dispute resolution that will accelerate success in the law firm, court room or board room.

Business, Public Policy, and IR Students will learn:

  • Why legal thinking is effective
  • How to develop strong arguments and counter those of others
  • 50 tools of reasoned argument, grounded in the principles of law.

Heighten Skills in Analytical Writing & Debate

Attention Professors: The book is especially compatible with the following courses of study, and would be a valuable resource.

Law School

· Legal Methods

· Legal Writing

· Negotiation

Business School

· Business Law

· Negotiation

International Relations

· International Law

· Negotiation

Paralegal Studies

· Introduction to Law

· Legal Analysis

For Lawyers & Law Firms

Checklist for Practicing Attorneys

Written with the junior associate in mind, The Tools of Argument: How the Best Lawyers Think, Argue, and Win is an excellent resource to help practicing attorneys consolidate and clarify the fundamentals of legal argument, and to serve as a checklist to make sure that every available argument is evaluated in connection with a dispute.

The author, Joel Trachtman, is a former practicing attorney and current law professor. This book reflects Trachtman’s contextual teaching style and his orientation toward practical knowledge. Readable and instructive, it will help new and even experienced lawyers analyze cases, draft texts, and advocate effectively.

If you are involved with a firm’s Summer Associate program or Professional Development initiatives, consider this Amazon best seller - Rated #1 in Trial Practice - for your team. 

For Executives

Avoid and Address Business Disputes with Confidence

Much is written about leadership skills – those broad-based competencies that go beyond core industry knowledge or functional expertise. An important one is the ability to argue a position through reasoned persuasion.

The Tools of Argument: How the Best Lawyers Think, Argue, and Win teaches critical skills of discourse and debate in a practical, accessible way. Grounded in the legal system, it covers core legal principles that will help you write, evaluate, and defend agreements with your constituencies, including suppliers, customers, shareholders, and employees. It will also help you work efficiently and effectively with lawyers you may hire, and compete with those on the opposing side.

If you work in Sales, Marketing, Finance or Business Development and feel that your tools of argumentation could use a sharpening, consider this book a valuable investment in your future.


In his new book The Tools of Argument: How the Best Lawyers Think, Argue, and Win, Professor Joel Trachtman lays out the many intricacies related to how lawyers frame arguments. It is a masterly treatment of a complex and compelling set of issues. There is much to learn here, both for the experienced practioner and for the novice to the field.”   

   -- James R. Silkenat, President, American Bar Association (2012-13) and   Partner, Sullivan & Worcester

Professor Trachtman’s book is required reading for lawyers, those who hire or work with lawyers, anyone interested in understanding the dynamics of legal negotiations or of political debate, and anyone interested in winning arguments.  Its unique and practical approach strips away jargon to isolate the core elements of legal reasoning and argumentation in a way that is accessible and applicable in everyday situations. Non-lawyers will find it a useful guide to effective persuasion.”

   -- John A. Burgess, Partner, WilmerHale

The Tools of Argument leads one through all aspects of reasoned argumentation. Upon completion, one is capable of understanding the techniques utilized by advocates to advance their positions. Indispensable for anyone who is involved with any business negotiation - which means anyone!"

   --  Edward P. Gilbert, Managing Director, BNY Mellon Bank, Tokyo

An easy-to-follow guide to argument techniques and theory.
In this manual, Trachtman moves legal argument out of the classroom and shares it with a general audience. Although the text is firmly grounded in the author’s legal background—the first chapter, for example, explores what the law is and why it matters—it also draws many parallels to other professional contexts. The author also often uses point-counterpoint examples to illustrate the techniques he describes. Overall, readers engaged in legal argument or persuasive writing and speaking will get the most value from this book.​"

   -- Kirkus Reviews

The Tools of Argument by Joel P. Trachtman

A smart personal investment, a great academic resource, a thoughtful gift

Under $12 in paperback or e-book

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