## Mathematicians And Lawyers

(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )
yellowblue

Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2010 1:05 am

### Mathematicians And Lawyers

I have studied mathematics extensively (both formally with a degree and informally for fun) and taken lots of proof courses. I picked up an LSAT book the other day to see what its all about. The logic in each question seems quite clear to me. I occassionally I come across one that is a puzzle but for the most part everything seems very clear.

I then looked around at some LSAT prep courses to see what they offer. After some review, it seems to me that the best prep for the LSAT would in fact be to take some proof courses in mathematics. A rigorous proof course in mathematics will teach you formal logic better than anything I can think of. If you have a sound understanding of logic then you can rely on your intuition to make numerous inferences that will often be correct (given that you are uncertain about something).

Renzo

Posts: 4254
Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2008 3:23 am

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

This would be like learning to recite the entire dictionary in preparation for a spelling bee.

Richie Tenenbaum

Posts: 2118
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 6:17 am

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

Renzo wrote:This would be like learning to recite the entire dictionary in preparation for a spelling bee.

+1

A basic intro to formal logic class goes beyond what is needed for the LSAT. It's just a matter of getting really good (and fast) at mostly basic concepts in formal and informal logic.

NewtonLied

Posts: 77
Joined: Sat Feb 20, 2010 6:16 pm

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

Richie Tenenbaum wrote:
Renzo wrote:This would be like learning to recite the entire dictionary in preparation for a spelling bee.

+1

A basic intro to formal logic class goes beyond what is needed for the LSAT. It's just a matter of getting really good (and fast) at mostly basic concepts in formal and informal logic.

They're both right. It's just a coincidence that Physics and Math majors have the highest avg LSAT scores.

Posts: 182
Joined: Thu Jan 28, 2010 6:19 am

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

Renzo wrote:This would be like learning to recite the entire dictionary in preparation for a spelling bee.

I suspect that people who seriously compete in spelling bees do read/memorize the dictionary, multiple in fact, in different editions, publications, series as well.

09042014

Posts: 18204
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 10:47 pm

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

NewtonLied wrote:
Richie Tenenbaum wrote:
Renzo wrote:This would be like learning to recite the entire dictionary in preparation for a spelling bee.

+1

A basic intro to formal logic class goes beyond what is needed for the LSAT. It's just a matter of getting really good (and fast) at mostly basic concepts in formal and informal logic.

They're both right. It's just a coincidence that Physics and Math majors have the highest avg LSAT scores.

No, but people with low LSAT scores are usually less intelligent, and probably couldn't cut it in any halfway decent physics or math program.

Unless you have some sort of reading disability I can't fathom how you'd be able to do differential equations but not be able to get 150.

yellowblue

Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2010 1:05 am

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

See this is poor logic. A sound understanding of formal logic not only prepares you for the LSAT but for a career in Law. Training in pure mathematics will teach you not only sound logic, but also how to think quickly using sound logic. In most proof courses I have taken, the exams consisted of proving theorems I have never seen before. I would have to rely on the logic that I have acquired to do so. Thats exactly what your doing on the LSAT.

Secondly, those who win the national spelling bee can define nearly every word in the dictionary.

Richie Tenenbaum

Posts: 2118
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 6:17 am

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

NewtonLied wrote:
Richie Tenenbaum wrote:
Renzo wrote:This would be like learning to recite the entire dictionary in preparation for a spelling bee.

+1

A basic intro to formal logic class goes beyond what is needed for the LSAT. It's just a matter of getting really good (and fast) at mostly basic concepts in formal and informal logic.

They're both right. It's just a coincidence that Physics and Math majors have the highest avg LSAT scores.

Reverse causation / separate cause responsible for both effects FTW.

NewtonLied

Posts: 77
Joined: Sat Feb 20, 2010 6:16 pm

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

Richie Tenenbaum wrote:
NewtonLied wrote:
Richie Tenenbaum wrote:
Renzo wrote:This would be like learning to recite the entire dictionary in preparation for a spelling bee.

+1

A basic intro to formal logic class goes beyond what is needed for the LSAT. It's just a matter of getting really good (and fast) at mostly basic concepts in formal and informal logic.

They're both right. It's just a coincidence that Physics and Math majors have the highest avg LSAT scores.

Reverse causation / separate cause responsible for both effects FTW.

http://xkcd.com/552/

Richie Tenenbaum

Posts: 2118
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 6:17 am

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

yellowblue wrote:See this is poor logic. A sound understanding of formal logic not only prepares you for the LSAT but for a career in Law. Training in pure mathematics will teach you not only sound logic, but also how to think quickly using sound logic. In most proof courses I have taken, the exams consisted of proving theorems I have never seen before. I would have to rely on the logic that I have acquired to do so. Thats exactly what your doing on the LSAT.

Secondly, those who win the national spelling bee can define nearly every word in the dictionary.

No one is arguing that majoring in Mathematics is a bad decision for law school. I think it's a great major to choose before law school for those who enjoy i it (as long as that person has some writing ability as well).

Richie Tenenbaum

Posts: 2118
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 6:17 am

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

NewtonLied wrote:
Richie Tenenbaum wrote:
NewtonLied wrote:They're both right. It's just a coincidence that Physics and Math majors have the highest avg LSAT scores.

Reverse causation / separate cause responsible for both effects FTW.

http://xkcd.com/552/

I think I say "correlation does not automatically imply causation" at least a dozen times when I am teaching a class that involves causal arguments.

r2b2ct

Posts: 128
Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2009 1:33 pm

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

I can see why a background in mathematics would be helpful. In my experience, I found that a background in philosophy was extremely useful since it also builds reading/writing skills in addition to teaching formal and informal logic.

yellowblue

Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2010 1:05 am

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

Yes perhaps philosophy would be a good route as well, especially considering the writing component.
If your going to go to college anyway and study for the LSAT, I believe you can do both at once.
The catch is that you have to be competent enough to do well in proof courses to have a decent GPA.
If you can do well in proof courses then I believe this route would prepare you the most for a career in law.
However law is a people's business. I will concede that most students in math programs at top universities (i know from experience) are not proficient in their ability to communicate effectively with others.
However, if you are it seems this would be the route to go.

Dr. Strangelove

Posts: 557
Joined: Sun Mar 28, 2010 5:59 pm

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

I took a formal logic class last semester.
I think most of it is useless in terms of LSAT preparation.
Some of the simple rules we learned about propositional logic are useful for the LSAT for organizing arguments which the LSAT deliberately makes convoluted to confuse people.
However, the more complicated stuff (first-order logic, arithmetic theorems) will never be needed for the LSAT.. too much mathematical prowess is required to even understand the basics of many of these theorems.

From observation, I think that those who major in the hard sciences are, on average, more intelligent than those in other majors- at least where I go to college.
It could be different elsewhere. That could explain the discrepancy in LSAT scores between those kinds of majors.. also, another possibility is that those who major in humanities/social sciences are more likely to consider law school regardless of LSAT while those in science/math have a wider range of practical options and will only consider law school if they think they could excel in the field.. and those Physics/Math majors who would only get in the 150's never even bother to take the LSAT.
This would be an interesting topic to do research on..

kosherboy2

Posts: 11
Joined: Thu Dec 31, 2009 2:29 am

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

NewtonLied wrote:
Richie Tenenbaum wrote:
Renzo wrote:This would be like learning to recite the entire dictionary in preparation for a spelling bee.

+1

A basic intro to formal logic class goes beyond what is needed for the LSAT. It's just a matter of getting really good (and fast) at mostly basic concepts in formal and informal logic.

They're both right. It's just a coincidence that Physics and Math majors have the highest avg LSAT scores.

in the hebrew language there is no word for coincidence...i think the fact that hard working people take those courses and deal with difficult problems that require close attention to get correct answers is why they have the highest LSAT average.

r2b2ct

Posts: 128
Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2009 1:33 pm

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

Dr. Strangelove wrote:From observation, I think that those who major in the hard sciences are, on average, more intelligent than those in other majors- at least where I go to college.
It could be different elsewhere. That could explain the discrepancy in LSAT scores between those kinds of majors.. also, another possibility is that those who major in humanities/social sciences are more likely to consider law school regardless of LSAT while those in science/math have a wider range of practical options and will only consider law school if they think they could excel in the field.. and those Physics/Math majors who would only get in the 150's never even bother to take the LSAT.
This would be an interesting topic to do research on..

Although Physics/Math majors perform the best overall, not all majors follow the pattern of hard sciences over social sciences/humanities. According to this table, although Physics/Math scores the best (160 avg.), Engineering (156.2) and Chemistry (156.1) perform worse than Philosophy (157.4) and International Relations (156.5).

sch6les

Posts: 53
Joined: Fri Jun 05, 2009 5:19 pm

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Last edited by sch6les on Tue May 01, 2012 6:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.

njskatchmo

Posts: 101
Joined: Sun Feb 08, 2009 2:35 pm

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

I have also taken my fair share of proof courses as well as scored well on the LSAT. The usefulness of a proof course only extends as far as simple logic goes, such as negations, contrapositives, demorgan's rules, and truth tables. These are topics which can be learned pretty easily, and don't require a course in mathematics to do so. Keep in mind, that the games are 1/4 of the test. As far as I've seen, as someone who has taken courses with math majors, (while I came from a liberal arts major) they can't read/write. So, you are trading points in reading for points in games. Not to mention the increased likelihood that a math major will miss a subtlety in the english of a reasoning question. I would put more emphasis on taking a major which requires more reading. The logic of games is simple and very learnable for anyone with the capacity to do so. It doesn't require 4 years of work to get it down. Within 20 games I was very near my peak performance.

This whole discussion completely disregards the process by which people who enjoy certain topics self select into their majors.

njskatchmo

Posts: 101
Joined: Sun Feb 08, 2009 2:35 pm

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

kosherboy2 wrote:
NewtonLied wrote:
Richie Tenenbaum wrote:
Renzo wrote:This would be like learning to recite the entire dictionary in preparation for a spelling bee.

+1

A basic intro to formal logic class goes beyond what is needed for the LSAT. It's just a matter of getting really good (and fast) at mostly basic concepts in formal and informal logic.

They're both right. It's just a coincidence that Physics and Math majors have the highest avg LSAT scores.

in the hebrew language there is no word for coincidence...i think the fact that hard working people take those courses and deal with difficult problems that require close attention to get correct answers is why they have the highest LSAT average.

In the Hebrew language there are plenty of words that don't have a proper translation (it's an incredibly small language). However, I don't dispute your point.

Dr. Strangelove

Posts: 557
Joined: Sun Mar 28, 2010 5:59 pm

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

sch6les wrote:
r2b2ct wrote:
Dr. Strangelove wrote:From observation, I think that those who major in the hard sciences are, on average, more intelligent than those in other majors- at least where I go to college.
It could be different elsewhere. That could explain the discrepancy in LSAT scores between those kinds of majors.. also, another possibility is that those who major in humanities/social sciences are more likely to consider law school regardless of LSAT while those in science/math have a wider range of practical options and will only consider law school if they think they could excel in the field.. and those Physics/Math majors who would only get in the 150's never even bother to take the LSAT.
This would be an interesting topic to do research on..

Although Physics/Math majors perform the best overall, not all majors follow the pattern of hard sciences over social sciences/humanities. According to this table, although Physics/Math scores the best (160 avg.), Engineering (156.2) and Chemistry (156.1) perform worse than Philosophy (157.4) and International Relations (156.5).

That's because the table underscores science majors. Think about it: the average top engineering major will apply to MIT, not take the LSAT. Whereas the average top philosophy majors will apply to law because they basically have no other option. You're comparing the top-teir caliber of arts majors with a mid-teir caliber of science majors. Which means the math/physics score should be even higher than it is.

In regards to the OP: taking proof courses in mathematics to study for the LSAT would be a terrible idea in terms of the opportunity cost.

A question: Is there any evidence that the average top engineering major would do better on the LSAT than the mid-tier caliber engineering major?
However, you raise an important point.. this is not a random sample size of philosophy majors/engineering majors/etc... we can only determine the quality of each major in terms of "ability to do well on the LSAT" if we randomly picked people from each major to take the LSAT.

eachdaythewiser

Posts: 9
Joined: Tue Apr 20, 2010 8:24 pm

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

I find this entire topic really interesting. I'm a non-traditional starting undergrad this fall and have been strongly persuaded by the Honor's Director at my college to consider Philosophy (over Accounting, which I thought was a better 'real world' skill). Some searching around of TLS tonight brought me to a branch of thought based around Math. I'm great at math and have accessed/placed into and will likely start in a Cal 1 course for my first semester (Mind you; i'm 27 and haven't been in a classroom in a long time), so the idea of taking more math courses to approach a proofs course down the road interests me. Hell, if I could double major or minor in it, I wouldn't mind it at all. I'm still mulling over if this is a worthwhile consideration, so I was hoping on input and feel on this thread.

What would a Philosophy major who's good at math or enjoys math likely want to pursue for a course-load or double-major/minor if any in math?

Richie Tenenbaum

Posts: 2118
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 6:17 am

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

eachdaythewiser wrote:I find this entire topic really interesting. I'm a non-traditional starting undergrad this fall and have been strongly persuaded by the Honor's Director at my college to consider Philosophy (over Accounting, which I thought was a better 'real world' skill). Some searching around of TLS tonight brought me to a branch of thought based around Math. I'm great at math and have accessed/placed into and will likely start in a Cal 1 course for my first semester (Mind you; i'm 27 and haven't been in a classroom in a long time), so the idea of taking more math courses to approach a proofs course down the road interests me. Hell, if I could double major or minor in it, I wouldn't mind it at all. I'm still mulling over if this is a worthwhile consideration, so I was hoping on input and feel on this thread.

What would a Philosophy major who's good at math or enjoys math likely want to pursue for a course-load or double-major/minor if any in math?

Why is your Honor's Director trying to talk you into a major that will not get you a job after school? I really like philosophy, but accounting is a way more practical major (and probably more helpful for business-oriented classes at law school than philosophy would be).

Why not major in accounting and just take lots of philosophy classes as electives? (Minors really don't mean much.) A degree in philosophy is pretty much meaningless unless you want to get a PhD in philosophy. And you should only do that if you want to teach philosophy.

eachdaythewiser

Posts: 9
Joined: Tue Apr 20, 2010 8:24 pm

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

Philosophy is one of the top performing majors for law school. The ability to rationalize and apply logic is crucial for law school as well as law, which is why it's examined in the LSAT. While i'm sure accounting is fine, I wouldn't gain anything out of it to help me in being a good performer on the LSAT, in law school, or after. Frankly it's argued that one should take courses in their undergrad that enhance their ability at analytical thinking as well as intensive writing. English and Philosophy really stand out for this.

I've always gotten a strong impression of these ideas being common place at TLS.

JCFindley

Posts: 1283
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2012 1:19 pm

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

I was a math major and got A's in my proof classes. They do indeed help but it has been a while since I was in school. OK, I took the LSAT cold, well, a weeks worth of studying a couple hours a day.....

I BOMBED the logic games in a big way. Oh, given time there is not a logic game I cannot do but given 35 minutes, I did not have that luxury. Aside from being good at them you need to be FAST and that is where the LSAT prep would have come in handy.....

As far as writing/reading skills of the math major don't bet on them missing out on that. The other two types of questions on the LSAT made perfect sense to me and that math background in logical thinking helped a LOT. Proof classes involve being able to logically understand the question as well as logically writing out the proof itself...... But then I was also an aviation writer for several magazines and a contributing editor at one of them so I also have a pretty good writing background as well.....

JC

outsidethescope

Posts: 164
Joined: Mon May 23, 2011 3:06 pm

### Re: Mathematicians And Lawyers

yellowblue wrote:Yes perhaps philosophy would be a good route as well, especially considering the writing component.
If your going to go to college anyway and study for the LSAT, I believe you can do both at once.
The catch is that you have to be competent enough to do well in proof courses to have a decent GPA.
If you can do well in proof courses then I believe this route would prepare you the most for a career in law.
However law is a people's business. I will concede that most students in math programs at top universities (i know from experience) are not proficient in their ability to communicate effectively with others.
However, if you are it seems this would be the route to go.

If you are smart enough to take complex math course and earn high marks in them while obtaining a technical degree AND on top of that, you have developed the insight necessary to be good at communicating with others, why the hell would you want to go to law school? It seems like a limiting choice.