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How Do Lawyers Use Math?


Date: 01/26/2001 at 13:31:52
From: Chloe Speakman
Subject: In what ways do lawyers use math? 

Dr. Math:

I have to write a two-page paper on "how lawyers use math." I am 
stumped. Can you please and give me some ideas?

Sincerely,
Chloe Speakman


Date: 01/26/2001 at 15:48:12
From: Doctor Jaffee
Subject: Re: In what ways do lawyers use math? 

Hi Chloe,

A colleague and friend of mine recently started teaching high school 
math after having been a lawyer for the last ten years.  I told him 
about your question and he very quickly came up with three important 
ways in which lawyers use mathematics. He said that if he thought 
about it some more, he could probably come up with others.

First, he told me that when an attorney writes a brief for a case in 
which he has to convince the judge that his client should win the 
case, he structures it just like a geometric proof. He starts with all 
the given facts, then states the relevant laws and precedents that 
relate to the case. Then he makes his argument based on these facts 
using deductive logic, exactly as if he were doing a mathematical 
proof.

So, the study of mathematics in which you have to prove theorems and 
properties using deductive logic is excellent training for a lawyer.

Second, most lawyers involved in civil cases in which people are suing 
others must be able to calculate percentages, interest, etc. to 
determine what is or isn't a fair settlement for the parties involved.  
Likewise, attorneys involved in tax or corporate law have to do a lot 
of computations involving money, interest rates, percentages and 
proportions.

Third, patent attorneys who work on behalf of inventors generally must 
also have a degree in engineering because they have to be able to 
understand the inventions and the mathematical formulas involved in 
the physics or chemistry applications of the product.

I hope this gives you some ideas for your paper. If you contact some 
local attorneys and show them what I wrote, they might be able to give 
you some specific examples - or they may have some other ideas.

Thanks for writing to Ask Dr. Math, and good luck with your paper.

- Doctor Jaffee, The Math Forum
  http://mathforum.org/dr.math/   


Date: 11/18/2002 at 17:46:15
From: Cristina
Subject: Lawyers using math?

I want to be a lawyer when I grow up, but I don't know what type of 
math I will use. I want to know what type of math to focus on 
exactly, because I am definitely pursuing a career in law. I have 
already begun reading my dad's law books (he's a police officer) to 
learn about courtroom trials. I just want to know what math it will be 
very important for me to learn. I already know proofs will help, but 
what type of proofs, and specifically how? Thank you!

- Cristina


Date: 11/18/2002 at 18:59:08
From: Doctor Shawn
Subject: Re: Lawyers using math?

Cristina,

I'm a law student halfway through school, and I also work at a law 
firm, so I've got a bit of a first-hand perspective on what is 
necessary.

First off, study logic. I know that's not necessarily something that 
people consider to be math, but it's perhaps the most important thing 
that you can use as a lawyer. A good course in symbolic logic will 
help you recognize when people are making shoddy arguments, and will 
improve your own. The importance of recognizing fallacies, unfair 
generalizations, and other common rhetorical tricks will help you 
enormously.

If you are a tax lawyer or deal with large businesses, you should be 
able to deal with complicated questions involving the operation of 
incredible amounts of money. Although specialized courses in law 
school will cover some of the basics of this, you should be familiar 
with accounting and statistics before you set foot in a courtroom.

I currently work for a plaintiffs' firm, so statistics are very 
important for us. We have to prove to a judge and a jury that our 
client's injuries were more likely than not caused by a certain 
product or behavior, which is more difficult than you might think.  
In the event of damage awards, we also have to figure out how to 
apportion the judgment among various defendants, and also how much 
credit defendants are entitled to if other people in the suit settle.

Basically, you should have a reasonable grasp of most areas of 
mathematics. If you're an attorney, people are going to try to sell 
you theories all the time, and you need to know whether you're on 
foot or on horseback!

Good luck with your career goals.

- Doctor Shawn, The Math Forum
  http://mathforum.org/dr.math/   
    
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