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One of the facts that identifies law as a profession is the phenomenon of the first year of law school. For the lay public, it must appear remarkable that law students-being trained to operate in worlds that are changing with increasing rapidity should nevertheless spend their first year analyzing many of the same judicial decisions studied during their predecessors' first year.
It is because certain opinions attain a precedential value beyond the facts of the specific disputes they resolve that their study is not inconsistent with the learning of contemporary doctrine. Public acceptance of the profession, however, rests precisely on the ability to blur this distinction between the operational and precedential function of a judicial opinion: to explicate, for the lay public, the mysteries of precedent as though what was involved was a logically coherent series of clearly stated propositions embodied in the opinions in terms of which specific human controversies were resolved.
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