Topic: Unlocking the secrets of legal genius: an empirical study of the cognitive differences between expert and subexpert competition lawyers

Presenter: Mr Peter Macmillan - PhD Candidate, TC Beirne School of Law

What does it mean to 'think like a lawyer'? What about an expert lawyer? 

Mr Macmillan's doctoral research will investigate the thought processes of expert lawyers as they engage in legal problem-solving. The findings of this research project are expected to contribute significantly to the existing literature on legal thinking skills and provide a foundation for advances in legal education and the assessment of specialist legal expertise.

Using methodologies from the field of cognitive science, specifically think-aloud problem-solving and verbal protocol analysis, this project will seek to elicit and analyse the tacit knowledge that defines the higher levels of legal expertise. Methodologies of this kind have been used to study expertise in medical diagnosis, the decision-making strategies of world-class chess players and the generic legal skills utilised in reading court cases. But this is the first time they will have been applied to the thinking skills of experts and subexperts in the same specialist area of law, in this case competition law. 

This seminar will describe how Mr Macmillan's thesis fits within the context of the existing literature on how lawyers think. It will also explain the methodologies to be used in this project and the benefits of understanding better how legal experts think differently from other lawyers.

All welcome, please register by emailing Beth Williams.

Contact: Beth Williams, ph: (334) 69350, email:

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