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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