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Why should legal scholars, practitioners and students take the study of legal use of metaphors seriously? Perhaps the most direct answer is because they constitute an integral yet largely neglected aspect of many areas of legal doctrine and reasoning. More importantly, such study can provide a different avenue for a critical analysis of linguistic devices through which unjustified stereotypes, ideologically loaded assumptions and other questionable aspects of legal rhetoric, reasoning and argumentation can be perpetuated without challenge, often for many decades. This article discusses the traditional neglect of metaphor as a topic of academic analysis, the pervasive but largely unnoticed operation of metaphor within legal doctrine, the frequent attitude of judicial disdain for the use of metaphors within legal argument. It provides substantive analysis of the link between analysing metaphors and the critical study of the operation of ideology within caselaw. It contains a case study of the childbearing metaphor in equity, illustrating the positive gains (including the encouragement of more selfconscious and self-critical forms of legal reasoning, rhetoric and argumentation) for legal scholarship that could result from the reversal of the longstanding neglect of this topic.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2004

More about this publication?
  • Until 2007 the King's Law Journal was known as the King's College Law Journal. It was established in 1990 as a legal periodical publishing scholarly and authoritative Articles, Notes and Reports on legal issues of current importance to both academic research and legal practice. It has a national and international readership, and publishes refereed contributions from authors across the United Kingdom, from continental Europe and further afield (particularly Commonwealth countries and USA). The journal includes a Reviews section containing critical notices of recently published books.
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