The Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues

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Stanley Fish


Suppose you are walking in the corridors of a law firm and you hear a person in one of the offices say “You have no consideration.” What do you take the speaker to have said or meant? You might reasonably assume that you have overheard a snatch of a conversation between a lawyer and a client who is being told that he cannot allege breach of contract because in the conversation he reports between himself and the one he would accuse there was an absence of reciprocally offered inducements of the kind “if you do X, I will do Y” or “if you give me X, I will give you Y.” Or, in other words, “You have no consideration.” But suppose further you know that the office from which the words issued is occupied by a lawyer who is married to another lawyer employed by the same firm and occupying an office on the same floor. You might then reasonably suppose that you have overheard a quarrel between two spouses one of whom is saying to the other, “Once again you are acting in a way that pays attention only to your needs and desires and ignores mine entirely.” Or, in other words, “You have no consideration.” There are of course more and mixed possibilities, but you get the point.





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