Carmel Valley resident releases new book ‘The Legal Mind — How the Law Thinks’

By Joe Tash

Dan Park

Dan Park set out with a straightforward mission — explain to the rest of us why our legal system is so complicated, slow and downright maddening at times.

The result was Park’s first published book, “The Legal Mind — How the Law Thinks.”  The 42-year-old Carmel Valley resident took a year to write the book, working around other commitments such as his full-time legal job, and spending time with his family, including his wife, two young sons and two dogs.

“It’s hard to find time to write,” he conceded in a recent interview.

Park’s self-published book came out in November, and is available on in both paperback and e-book editions.

“The law is everywhere around us, but it’s often invisible,” Park said.  “When we bump into it, it’s something of a surprise.”

So, using his talents as a writer (he’s been putting words on paper since he was a boy), Park did his best to explain how the legal system works, why it functions the way it does, and how to put this knowledge to good use in a disagreement, whether an argument with friends or a legal dispute. The copy editor for his book was Carmel Valley resident Jen Charat.

Park, a graduate of Yale Law School, has served as chief campus counsel for UC San Diego for the past nine years.  He also teaches a course called “Introduction to the Legal System” at UC San Diego Extension.

Most people encounter the law while dealing with some sort of agreement or contract, or due to an accident or unforeseen occurrence, he said.  People are then “thrown into the legal system whether they’re prepared or not.”

The legal system operates by different rules than people are used to, he said.  For example, he said, if you tell your spouse you’ve had a bad day, he or she might sympathize.  But if you tell that to the legal system, you’ll be asked to prove it.  “That’s the difference,” he said.

The reason for this disparity?  “The law has to resolve disputes between people who disagree,” he said.

The four main challenges to resolving disputes are deception and lies; misperceptions; forgetting (“We forget far more than we remember, and we forget that we’ve forgotten.”); and ambiguity, Park said.  The legal system is designed to seek out the truth in spite of such obstacles.

Any assertion made in the legal system must be put to the test, which means providing proof, Park said, something most people are not asked to do in their daily lives.

By knowing what real proof looks like and how to gather it, people can create an advantage in many situations, from seeking a raise at work to resolving a dispute with a neighbor, Park said.

Another common misperception, he said, is the reliability of eyewitness testimony.  While many people regard such first-hand accounts as rock solid, he said, “it turns out much of that confidence is misplaced.”  Eyewitness testimony is subject to the fallibility of human recollections and interpretations, according to Park.

While our current legal system may not be perfect, it’s far superior to past methods.  One-thousand years ago, people solved disputes through “trial by ordeal,” which sometimes involved placing a hot coal in the hand of a suspected wrong-doer.  If the hand became infected, the person was guilty.  If it healed, the suspect was innocent.

That method was simple and quick, producing a clear, if not necessarily accurate, result, Park said.  It was later replaced in England by the jury system.  And we’ve been tweaking our legal system for at least the last eight centuries.

The current system is cumbersome, slow and expensive. “but it’s hard to imagine how to avoid that cumbersomeness and still produce results with the reliability we expect,” Park said.

“The Legal Mind” is Park’s first published work, but he has written a couple of mystery novels that remain in the drawer.  He said he may publish a novel one day if he writes one that he believes is worthy of public consumption.

For now, he writes when he can, while enjoying time with his wife, Deborah Muns-Park, also an attorney, and his two sons, ages 9 and 12.

He self-published his book, he said, so it could be written for a general audience and made available at an affordable price.

“I think it’s a useful book for people interested in the law and how the law works,” he said.

Related posts:

  1. Carmel Valley resident’s new novel combines high seas adventure with legal drama
  2. Local resident’s new novel combines high seas adventure with legal drama
  3. Carmel Valley father-sons writing team publishes second book
  4. Reception and book signing to be held for Carmel Valley author’s new book
  5. Del Mar author releases another new book in popular series

Short URL:

Posted by Staff on Dec 10, 2013. Filed under Life, North Coast Life. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply



Bottom Buttons 1

Bottom Buttons 2

Bottom Buttons 3

Bottom Buttons 4

Bottom Buttons 5

Bottom Buttons 6



  • La Jolla Library welcomes new chief Shaun Briley
    For La Jolla Riford Library’s new head librarian, Shaun Briley, books have been a part of his life and career, in some form or another, every step of the way. […]
  • Tangerine trees, marmalade skies for Beatles-inspired Patrons of the Prado gala in Balboa Park, San Diego
    “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was the theme of the Patrons of the Prado gala on July 12, 2014 in Balboa Park, San Diego. Beatles-inspired music came from Wayne Foster Entertainment. Sandy Redman and Jeanne Jones served as event chairs. 2014’s beneficiaries are the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego Museum of Art and The Old Globe Theatre. […]
  • La Jolla’s Best Bets for events July 31- Aug. 7
    Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) offers a crash course in starting a photography collection 6 p.m. Thursday Aug. 7. at the Ligne Roset Showroom, 7726 Girard Ave. MOPA assistant curator Chantel Paul and director of jdc Fine Art Jennifer DeCarlo will share professional insights. […]




  • Rancho Santa Fe resident’s Gen 7 wines earn top honors
    Rancho Santa Fe resident Tim Bacino’s Gen 7 Wines is on a hot streak, his varietals winning several awards this summer in California wine competitions. […]
  • Torrey Pines High School baseball alum Taylor Murphy excelling in pro ball
    It was during a breakout senior year at Torrey Pines High that Taylor Murphy first popped up on the radar of professional scouts. Shortly after graduation, Murphy was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 40th round of the June 2011 amateur draft. He declined, honoring a commitment to the University of the Pacific. Three years later, Murphy got another sho […]
  • Why Hire a Licensed Landscape Professional?
    By Steve Jacobs, Nature Designs The old saying – “if something seems to good to be true, it probable is” – is quite fitting when it comes to hiring a contractor for your home or yard construction project. While it is smart to shop around, get quotes, etc., don’t fall into the trap of trusting […]