By: Aaron Abernathy
It’s fair to say that many, if not most, LSAT test-takers don’t find studying for the LSAT the most fun they ever had. Many dislike it with an intensity that’s only slightly less than that of a thousand fiery suns. When pressed, their explanation often boils down to “it’s just not relevant to how well I’ll do in law school, much less how I’ll fare as a lawyer.”
The conception that the LSAT won’t really help you in law school is based on a misperception, one we can fix by comparison to a learning a foreign language.
If you want to become fluent in a foreign language, it takes a lot of hard work. You’d need to sit down with your cassette tapes, textbooks, etc. and put in a lot of hours. But in the end, you’d have the ability to have a conversation without translating each and every word in your head, slowly and awkwardly trying to say even the simplest phrases. It’s the fact that you fought through and translated hundreds of similar sentences that allow you to speak Italian without having to wade through each word – it’s as if it’s now second nature.
Compare that to someone who tries to learn Italian just by memorizing every single page of a phrasebook. They might be able to have a few simple conversations, but certainly they don’t “know” Italian in the same way someone who focused on learning the entire language does. They still have to take it word by word, phrase by phrase – slowly and awkwardly.
Many student’s dislike studying for the LSAT because they think you just have to memorize a phrase book – learn the “tricks.” Bad news- there’s no phrasebook that you can use to get a great LSAT score. Good news – when you develop an LSAT skill like analyzing arguments, you really learn it, and it’ll stick with you. Not just for success on the LSAT but in law school as well. The skills you learned for Reading Comp – identifying points of view, etc. – will translate directly to analyzing cases in law school. It isn’t a trick that allows well trained LSAT takers to figure out which co-pilot flies with which pilot, it’s well-honed skills.
At the end of the day, an argument is an argument. For example, becoming a fluent speaker of “argument” will help you to naturally spot flaws instead of spending time hunting them down (time you may not have), regardless of whether the flaw is in an argument about herbal tinctures on the LSAT, a case you’re reading your first year of law school or a judge giving biased jury instructions.
So, the next time you look at an LSAT problem and say, “that’s irrelevant to law school or a being a lawyer,” I hope you will respond to yourself and say “maybe, but the LSAT skills I’m learning are helping me learn to think like one.” And if you’re still unconvinced the ability to extrapolate and compare seemingly random connections is lawyerly – check out two of the most important cases Justice Roberts cited in the Affordable Care Act decision: one about growing wheat and one about being a loan shark (Wickard v. Filburn and Perez v. United States).