math background a help in law school?

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Black-Blue
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Re: math background a help in law school?

Postby Black-Blue » Thu Jun 10, 2010 12:59 am

beer lao wrote:If someone asked me what to major in undergrad that would prepare them for law school, I would actually suggest math and a double major/minor in english or some other reading and writing intensive subject.

That would surely get the best of both worlds. But that type of person is rare.

I came from engineering (which is like a tamed version of math, in this respect) and I thought by far the biggest challenge of law school was the insane amount of reading and the exam writing. Identifying the issues and coming up with the arguments weren't the hard part, but I had trouble articulating them coherent in a fast-paced manner on an essay exam.

Kobe_Teeth
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Re: math background a help in law school?

Postby Kobe_Teeth » Thu Jun 10, 2010 1:17 am

cutiewiddlebebe wrote:
mmmadeli wrote:I'm sorry! I didn't mean to be an asshole. I was just curious if it translated -- if I'm wrong I'm wrong, that's no big deal. You're the experts. :-)

*your



Seriously?

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mmmadeli
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Re: math background a help in law school?

Postby mmmadeli » Thu Jun 10, 2010 1:46 pm

beer lao wrote:If someone asked me what to major in undergrad that would prepare them for law school, I would actually suggest math and a double major/minor in english or some other reading and writing intensive subject.


Actually, these (math/English) are exactly my undergrad majors. Everyone told me I was stupid. I'll show them...I'll show them all! ::cackles::

D.Wilde
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Re: math background a help in law school?

Postby D.Wilde » Wed Jun 16, 2010 7:32 am

beer lao wrote:I have a math background, and I have to say that proof based math courses really helped me a lot during my first year of law school. The logical way you go about proving problems in math is similar to the logical reasoning required in law school. Also, I felt nothing that I encountered in my first year of law school was as technical or confusing as some of my math classes. So don't worry, the concepts you'll have to learn in Law school is not nearly as confusing as advanced calculus or partial differential equations!

If someone asked me what to major in undergrad that would prepare them for law school, I would actually suggest math and a double major/minor in english or some other reading and writing intensive subject.


I second this. I double-majored in math and theater, and I could not possibly think of a better way to prepare for law school. Looking at fact patterns and hypotheticals, my brain often instantly made connections and spotted issues which others had to struggle greatly to see or understand. Theater gave me the ability to read and write with a significant level of competence, in addition to the ability to read a narrative and analyze each party's individual objectives and desires (you'd be amazed how, when called on in class, many students can't seem to answer the very direct question: What does the complaining party hope to achieve?), and math gave me the ability to analyze multiple potential arguments on either side of an issue and evaluate their logical strengths and weaknesses.

Math and English are a great combination for law school, and I predict you will find that your undergraduate course of study has definitely given you a leg up during your 1L year.

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edcrane
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Re: math background a help in law school?

Postby edcrane » Thu Jun 17, 2010 3:08 pm

I think a math background is very helpful for law school exams--though it may be less helpful for in-class discussions as well as the actual practice of law.

Most law school exams are closed system puzzles that can, for the most part, be "solved" using the slice of law and policy taught during the class. For the most part, there are optimal answers (which frequently include recognition of ambiguities). A student who has been conditioned to produce systematic answers that clearly articulate how one moves from given premises to conclusions through application of explicitly stated rules and specific inferences (i.e., showing your work) will at the outset have an advantage over the student who is more used to reciting facts or theories and making broad observations.

I think the central challenge for a math student is the inclusion of factual ambiguity and policy issues in exam prompts. Factual ambiguity is least problematic; it simply requires the math student (like all other law students) to reach a special kind of multi-pronged conclusion. Policy, however, can be a pitfall. When the issue is only vaguely stated and there are no obvious rules to apply, it can be difficult to produce an insightful, off-the-cuff essay on what the standard for X should be. There are ways to game policy questions, of course, but the point is that math students may at the outset have a natural disadvantage in this area.

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mmmadeli
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Re: math background a help in law school?

Postby mmmadeli » Fri Jun 18, 2010 1:25 am

D.Wilde wrote:Theater gave me the ability to read and write with a significant level of competence, in addition to the ability to read a narrative and analyze each party's individual objectives and desires (you'd be amazed how, when called on in class, many students can't seem to answer the very direct question: What does the complaining party hope to achieve?), and math gave me the ability to analyze multiple potential arguments on either side of an issue and evaluate their logical strengths and weaknesses.


Yes, we're like twins! I love when I meet people who did some math/humanities combination, it's so rare.

Morten Lund
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Re: math background a help in law school?

Postby Morten Lund » Tue Jun 22, 2010 7:47 pm

I was a math major undergraduate (alas, not at an Ivy League school), and I found the math background to be useful for the LSAT, for law school, and for the practice of law.

Not because I do linear algebra on the job, but because math, more than anything else I know, teaches dispassionate and methodical analysis. And, as far as I am concerned, "thinking like a lawyer" just means that you treat everything like a math problem: ignore the real world implications, and show your work. This is doubly true in law school, where the work counts far more than the answer.

In actual practice nobody wants to see your work anymore, but if you don't go through the full process your answer will be worthless. A mathematician is not distracted by appearances - a "6" with sparkles on top is still just a "6." In that same fashion, a good attorney sees the facts and the law for what they are, not what he would like them to be, or what somebody else says they are.

Moreover, while it is unlikely* that you will be doing complex analysis on the job, most lawyering involves money, and money means accounting and numbers. So while your math-phobic colleagues freak out at the elaborate debt service coverage ratio calculations, you can view it as simple algebra. Math is everywhere, and that includes the practice of law.


*but it does happen. My office whiteboard is currently filled with complex analysis equations for a client project, and I am not an IP lawyer. Math does have real-world applications, and those real-world applications need lawyers too. Over the years I have had opportunities to directly apply various math and quasi-math disciplines, including calculus, sequences, trigonometry, geometry, vector analysis, complex analysis, and, of course, algebra, to various client projects. Required? No. Nice bonus? Absolutely.

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mmmadeli
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Re: math background a help in law school?

Postby mmmadeli » Wed Jun 23, 2010 3:43 am

Morten Lund wrote:*but it does happen. My office whiteboard is currently filled with complex analysis equations for a client project, and I am not an IP lawyer. Math does have real-world applications, and those real-world applications need lawyers too. Over the years I have had opportunities to directly apply various math and quasi-math disciplines, including calculus, sequences, trigonometry, geometry, vector analysis, complex analysis, and, of course, algebra, to various client projects. Required? No. Nice bonus? Absolutely.


You've given me some hope here. I recently had a minor crisis of faith after hanging out with a friend of mine who's finishing up his math PhD. He was telling me about his research and I was getting all jealous, wondering if I was doing the entire wrong thing with my life. Sigh. What kind of law do you practice?

Morten Lund
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Re: math background a help in law school?

Postby Morten Lund » Wed Jun 23, 2010 11:11 am

I am a corporate lawyer, but I specialize (strictly in a colloquial sense of the word, not in a "advertising an uncertified specialization in violation of ethical codes" kind of way) in energy law. My clients are largely engineers - mostly power engineers, civil engineers, or EE - and mathy stuff comes up constantly. Power plants/transmission also happens to be one of the very few applications of complex analysis, which explains my current board full of "i."

But even beyond energy, I have found ample opportunity to apply (low-grade) mathematics in other areas, like general construction and pharmaceuticals. Math is the lingua franca of science - good math skills and a basic understanding of other sciences makes you conversant. Unless you are an IP lawyer you don't need to be DOING the science, but every client appreciates an attorney who understands what they are saying. For me that has meant tilting my practice towards engineer-heavy fields, since I speak engineer. For other mathy lawyers that has meant tilting towards high finance/economics, where mere accounting is insufficient.

A good corporate lawyer does not advise simply on the law, but truly understands the client's business. You should seek areas of practice where your particular skillset gives you an advantage in understanding your clients and their needs.

On a side note - can somebody explain to the newbie why my signature is not showing up? It is much harder to subtly promote my books if my self-serving signature doesn't show up. All suggestions appreciated.




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