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So, What do You do for a Living?,
Michigan Bar Journal, March, 2006
To Be or Not to Be [a Lawyer]
That is the Question

FIRAC: An ELEMENTary Approach to Legal Reasoning

by David Guenther, Professor Emeritus, Central Michigan University

This material is copyrighted. Copyright notice. If you have any comments, criticisms, or suggestions, please send them to me.

ANSWERS to the Matching Game


Consider the following pairs of words. Does the word in the “element” column mean the same thing as, or include, the word directly opposite it in the “fact” column?
spousewifeYES or NO
forty percenttwo-fifthsYES or NO
statueConsumer Protection ActYES or NO
state capitolWashington, D.C.YES or NO
piggreedyYES or NO
speciesCetaceaYES or NO


(1) Does spouse = wife? YES

The definition of “spouse” is “one’s husband or wife.”

(2) Does forty percent = two-fifths? YES

Forty percent is 40 out of 100. 40/100 and 2/5 are fractional equivalents.

(3) Does statue = Consumer Protection Act? NO

The definition of “statue” is “A likeness of a person or thing sculpted in a solid substance.” The Consumer Protection Act is a statute – a law enacted by a legislature. “Statue” and “statute” are totally different things. Details such as a single letter can matter a lot.

(4) Does state capitol = Washington, D.C.? NO

Washington, D.C. is a capitol. But it is the capitol of the United States, not the capitol of an individual state. Olympia is the capitol of the state of Washington.

(5) Does pig = greedy?

The word “pig” has four different definitions: 1. A hoofed mammal with short legs, bristly hair, and a blunt snout used for digging, especially one of a kind raised for meat. 2. A person regarded as being piglike, greedy, or gross. 3. An oblong block of metal, chiefly iron or lead, poured from a smelting furnace. 4. Slang. A police officer.

Without knowing the context in which “pig” was used, there is no way to determine the correct answer. Just because you know “greedy” is one definition of “pig” doesn’t mean you can assume “yes” is the answer in this case. Reaching that conclusion is nothing more than a guess and the odds of being right are just one in four.

(6) Does species = Cetacea? NO

“Species” is one category of taxonomic classification. “Order” is a different category of taxonomic classification. “Cetacea” is an order, not a species. The order Cetacea includes whales, dolphins, porpoises. There are many different species of whales (e.g., sperm whale, humpback whale, baleen whale, blue whale), dolphins, and porpoises.


All the answers, except for Question 5, are clear-cut. (And the uncertainty about the answer to Question 5 is apparent if one recognizes that “pig” has multiple definitions.) Figuring out the correct answers was straightforward if one paid attention to detail, kept an open mind and did not make assumptions, and looked up definitions and other information as needed.

And yet, if you are typical, you got at least one of the answers wrong. The concept of comparing an element to the facts is simple. Actually making a comparison, however, can be challenging.

BACK to the Overview of FIRAC

Copyright 2000/2004
David Guenther

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