This was something I wrote for a class on the topic of how people read. The idea was to give an expert in a trade a text from within that trade to see how they would interpret the context. It was a reminder that teachers often expect students to understand things that are outside of their frame of reference.
The expert reader is a recently retired attorney. He passed the bar in 1987, and spent most of his career working for the Administration for Children’s Services. He’s my dad.
I was to ask him to read new material in his or her discipline and tell you what and how he or she is processing the information during the reading, and to report this in about 200 words.
I asked the attorney (AKA dad) to read the article “Appeals court condemns ‘puerile name calling’ and reverses verdict because of lawyer’s comments” from the American Bar Association Journal. Several terms relevant to understanding the piece were not defined, including appeals court, “Superior Court of New Jersey” and sustained objections. He noted that a reader would be expected to understand the difference between a criminal court and civil court, as well as the process of the division of fault in a civil case, and have a background knowledge regarding the debates on the differences between zealous representation of a client and going too far.
He understood that when the losing lawyer was “weighing legal options” it meant a possible appeal to the state supreme court. He also recognized reasons it was significant that a lawyer was declared unprofessional by an appeals court. Lawyers are officers of the court, so they are held to a high standard. In addition, civil courts tend to be overcrowded, so judges would much rather be triers of fact and settle disputes on the legal questions, than be babysitters. His opinion of an attorney who referred to another’s arguments as “stupid” was informed by how he would have expected a judge to respond to him if he had tried to the same. He also noted that a good attorney would find different ways to make the same point.