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How Do Lawyers Use Math?

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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
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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/
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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
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
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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
improve your own. The importance of recognizing fallacies, unfair
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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