Best Practices and Math for Lawyers

 I have been getting some feedback from members of the bar that recent graduates are not as savvy about math and accounting as they have been in the past.  I was assured it was not just UNM graduates, but it made me think about the recommendation in Best Practices to prepare students for the practice of law  and that law schools should develop a curriculum relevant to that goal.   HMMM…math is pretty important to the practice of law…and I teach Family Law, which involves a LOT of math…in reviewing and presenting budgets, in allocating property, in figuring out pension divisions, in calculating child support and alimony.  I realized that I don’t specifically list accuracy in math calculations and understanding of the mathematical principles underlying the legal issues on my list of learning objectives on my syllabus.   That is going to change… 

This semester, I told my students that the final examination will have at least one problem requiring substantial mathematical calculations.  They may take their calculator into the exam (otherwise it is closed book).    And, I am spending a little more time giving them math related problems (e.g. pension allocation, child support, etc) to work on as homework or in small group and I am spending  a little more class time discussing them.   I look forward to seeing how they do on the exam!

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One Response

  1. Emory believes that a sophisticated business and accounting background are critical foundation knowledge without which a transactional lawyer cannot practice properly. To implement this conviction, we changed our accounting course this year.

    Firms are not interested in associates being able to make bookkeeping entries. Instead, their focus is on the ability to use financial statement concepts in practice. Accordingly, we have structured our three-credit course into three parts. In Part 1, students learn the basics of the three financial statements and the line items making up each statement. As students learn about a line item (say, receivables), they learn about the business and legal issues associated with them. In addition, we try to provide context whenever possible. So, for example, this year, when the students were studying receivables, a guest lectured about how factoring can provide a company with working capital.

    In Part 2, students learn financial statement analysis, so they can understand their client’s financial condition and how it affects their long-term strategy and immediate needs. (Also helps in an acquisition to be able to understand the other side’s financials.)

    In Part 3, students study provisions in agreements that include financial statement concepts such as earn-outs, purchase price adjustments, cash flow ratios, and royalties.

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