Mathematics90

What Math You Have to Take to Become a Lawyer
by Robin Elizabeth Margolis, Demand Media
Law students and lawyers use mathematics in many ways.
Law students and lawyers use mathematics in many ways.

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Law schools have traditionally accepted students with undergraduate majors in many different fields, but an American Bar Association (ABA) essay, “Preparing for Law School,” currently recommends that undergraduates planning to attend law school acquire “basic mathematical and financial skills, such as an understanding of basic pre-calculus mathematics and an ability to analyze financial data.” A look at how law students and lawyers use math skills can provide additional guidance on possible math courses future lawyers may wish to take.

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Background
The most popular undergraduate majors of students entering law school are political science, economics, business administration, history, English and rhetoric. The ABA’s recommendation that future lawyers take more undergraduate math classes reflects a gradual shift in legal practice that began in the 1970s toward an increasing use of statistics and other forms of mathematics in trial preparation and other aspects of legal practice.

Law School
Students majoring in mathematics or physics achieved the highest scores on the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT, according to a 2009 study reported by Social Science Research Network. Anecdotal evidence suggests that law students with math backgrounds may benefit in two ways during law school. Some classes, such as tax law, require mathematical calculations. Secondly, law schools teach students a step-by-step method of logical analysis of legal problems called “legal reasoning,” which students with math backgrounds may find easier to understand than humanities majors.

Related Reading: Requirements to Become a Prosecution Lawyer

Attorney Specializations
All newly credentialed law school graduates who go to work for law firms need basic math knowledge to fill out time sheets to bill clients and track their business expenses. Some junior attorneys enter legal fields that require business mathematics knowledge, including real estate, taxation, trusts and estates, securities, contracts and bankruptcy. Other lawyers need some acquaintance with pure mathematics such as calculus and statistics to work effectively in legal specializations such as health care law or patent law. Attorneys specializing in litigation often require knowledge of statistics, as many court cases hinge on using statistics to prove factual points.

Undergraduate Math Classes
There’s no universal consensus on what types of undergraduate math classes future lawyers should take. The pre-calculus mathematics recommended by the ABA and anecdotal suggestions by math majors who became lawyers, imply that future lawyers should at a minimum take undergraduate courses in college algebra, trigonometry, geometry, logic and statistics. Students hoping to enter legal specializations involved with science, such as the patent area of intellectual property law or health care law, may wish to add two semesters of introductory calculus, as that is often a prerequisite for understanding scientific subjects connected with these areas of law, including physics and biology. The ABA’s call for undergraduate students to learn how to analyze financial data can be addressed by signing up for introductory financial accounting and business math classes.

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