June 2013 LSAT, LR1, Q24, advice from a law professor

Crowdsourcing the June 2013 LSAT:  June 2013 LSAT Explanation Central | About this project If there were ever going to be an exception to the rule that a great teacher can make any subject interesting, a class called Statutory Interpretation: Federal Income Tax would have to be it. As I lugged the required 1800+ pages of tax cases, statutes, and regulations out of the bookstore, my back and heart felt as if I were digging my own grave.

But Professor Heather Field quickly became my favorite instructor at UC Hastings, with her amazing ability to learn names, use every minute of her allotted lecture time to full effect, and explain what “ordinary and necessary” mean by inquiring whether Nelly is allowed to deduct his Grillz. I wouldn't say she instilled in me a love of tax law””far from it””but I did take two more tax classes from her. I never should have been in law school in the first place, since I never really wanted to be a lawyer. It was an unhappy time. But Professor Field made me laugh, and made me curious about things I never imagined I could be curious about. Maybe law school was worth it, just for the opportunity to learn from one of the best teachers I ever had.

Guest blogger: Heather Field

Hi! I'm delighted to be participating in this project with Nathan!

A little bit about me – I am a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, where I serve as the newly-appointed Associate Academic Dean and where I hold the Bion Gregory Chair in Business Law. I am in my eighth year of teaching. Before that, I practiced for almost six years at a big firm in LA.

I teach a variety of tax courses (basic tax, corporate & partnership tax, tax policy, etc.). I was lucky enough to have Nathan as a tax student when he was in law school. Interested in knowing why you should take tax? Check out this video! I also teach Financial Basics for Lawyers, which is a course that I recently developed.

I want students to succeed, and I want to be their partner in that process. I define “success” broadly””academic (measured in learning, not just grades), professional (measured in career satisfaction, not just money), and personal. That is, I strive to see and support the whole student. When I say I want to “partner” with students, I mean that we both have responsibilities””I can't, by myself, make students succeed, but they also shouldn't have to do everything themselves. So I'll do my part to try to provide students with opportunities, and students have to seize opportunities to create the educational, personal, and professional experiences they desire.

As an aside, I also have a super cute little dog named Daisy, and she often comes to school with me. She is clearly more popular than I am, and for good reason! :)

A few words of advice – You didn't ask for my advice about law school, but here are a few thoughts anyway. If law school is the right thing for you, it can be an amazing intellectual experience where you grow, learn, and become empowered to pursue whatever is important to you. But law school can be challenging and sometimes grueling. Some topics, but not all, will captivate you. Thus, if you go to law school, I encourage two things:

  • First, try to connect the course material to your life, to things you hear about in the news, or otherwise to the world outside the classroom. This will help make abstract or obscure concepts more meaningful, which will (I hope) make your learning experience both more effective and more fun.
  • Second, remember to do things outside of law school that enrich your life””exercise, see friends, watch movies, go for hikes, etc. Whatever you do for fun now, you should continue to do. Law school and the practice of law involve a lot of hard work, and it is important to try to maintain balance. Plus, sometimes (especially when we're feeling frustrated), our brains work better after we've let them relax and recharge.

And finally the explanation to the question –

There is something wrong with the argument. But what is the problem? Let's walk through the answer choices to see if we can figure it out--

A. Clearly no. The facts don't say anything about morality. No “drinking is bad”; no “drinking is a terrible thing for society.” The argument has nothing to do with a normative judgment (that is, a judgment about the way the world “should be.”) Totally off-base.

B. Not quite. It is true that an alternative method might be more effective at reducing underage drinking (e.g., bigger fines for people who sell alcohol to minors or who procure alcohol for minors; alcohol education programs in schools; etc.). But that's not the biggest problem here. Really, the biggest problem is that the argument concludes that this method (having underage individuals pledge not to drink) is effective at all in causing underage individuals not to drink. Which brings us to . . . .

C. Aha! Exactly. Just because two things happen (someone pledges not to drink; someone doesn't drink) doesn't mean that one causes the other. This is a classic problem””confusing correlation with causation. The survey cited in the problem has shown correlation (two things both happen at the same time or to the same people), but the survey doesn't establish a causal link between (i) pledging not to drink and (ii) actually not drinking.  Another easy (though not all that clever””sorry, I'm missing the creative spark right now) example: Right now, I'm writing and I'm eating a cookie. But that doesn't mean writing makes me eat cookies or that eating cookies makes me write. (Editor's note: In this example, causation is not proven but it's a damn good hypothesis. Same thing happens when I write, except with bourbon. Not sure which causes which, more studies required. --n)

D. Nope. Pledging not to drink is not sufficient to cause underage individuals not to drink””the facts even indicate that some underage people do drink despite taking a pledge. Nor does the argument treat it as necessary. All the argument claims is that it seems to be successful. The sufficient/necessary problem is a common logical flaw in arguments, but that is not the issue here.

E. Again, no. There is some confusion here, but this isn't it.

Hope that was helpful! Good luck with everything!!!

Please ask questions and/or suggest corrections to anything that seems confusing... we want to make this the best resource we can for LSAT students. We'll have all the June 2013 explanations up as quickly as possible. Thanks for reading. Tell your friends! --nathan

Crowdsourcing the June 2013 LSAT:  June 2013 LSAT Explanation Central | About this project