The Legal Level Podcast: Why do I have to take the LSAT, anyway?

 

Mehran:

Welcome to The Legal Level, a podcast by TestMax, the creator of the highest rated and most downloaded apps for the LSAT with LSATMax, the first year of law school with 1L, and the bar exam with BarMax. My name is Mehran and I am the CEO of TestMax, a company I co-founded while I was a student at Harvard Law School. From the LSAT to the bar exam, we are leveling the legal education playing field by providing the tools and information every future lawyer needs to ace the LSAT, rock law school admissions, pass the bar exam, and land their dream job. This podcast is hosted by two of our 99th percentile LSAT instructors, Jelena who scored a 178 and Branden who scored a 175. I hope you find this podcast useful on your journey to becoming a licensed practicing attorney, wherever you may be in that process.

Mehran:

Lastly, some quick coronavirus updates that have occurred since this episode was recorded. The March 2020 LSAT has officially been canceled by LSAC. All registrations have automatically been registered for the April exam, but this exam is also now in jeopardy of being canceled. Similar to what first occurred with the March LSAT, LSAC is now allowing April 2020 students to change their exam date to June or July without any additional costs until March 31st at 11:59 PM eastern time. LSAC has announced it will make a final decision on the fate of the April LSAT by April 10th at the latest. The most recent news from LSAC is that March and April registrants who canceled the previous LSAT score will now have the opportunity to review their canceled score and restore it to their LSAC record. Given the cancellation of the March LSAT and the uncertainty surrounding the April exam, this review and restore opportunity could be an important step that enables you to complete your law school applications for admission this fall. We will continue to monitor this situation as it unfolds. Make sure you follow us on social media at LSATMax or at BarMax for the latest updates

Speaker:

And now our feature presentation.

Branden:

Dinosaur drug overdoses, hedge trimming, a bunch of clowns getting out of a car in a particular order, cakewalk pioneer Ada Overton Walker, dark matter, baboon behavior in the wild. You'll probably never deal with any of these subjects in law school or while practicing as an attorney, but these and an assortment of other equally bizarre topics stand between you and getting into law school.

Jelena:

Welcome to The Legal Level, a podcast from TestMax. I'm Jelena.

Branden:

And I'm Branden. We're your companions on the road to the legal field, whether you've just started thinking about law school or you've already passed the bar.

Jelena:

The Legal Level is available from Apple podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, and wherever you're listening to it right now.

Branden:

If you like today's episode, don't forget to subscribe and tell a friend.

Jelena:

After you're done listening if you still have questions about today's topic, you can talk about it with a 99th percentile LSAT instructor by texting LSAT to (310) 818-7743. Or if you'd like your question to be the show, just email podcast@testmaxprep.com and we might answer you on the air.

Branden:

Today we're talking about what the LSAT has to do with law school and the practice of law and why you have to take the test. But before we get there, we'll introduce ourselves and check in on what's new in the world of the LSAT, law school, and the legal field.

Jelena:

Welcome to the first episode of The Legal Level. Whether you're just starting to think about law school or you're signed up for the next LSAT administration, this podcast is all about getting you through the most important test of your life, ideally with your mental health and your passion for law school intact.

Branden:

Wherever you are on the path to law school, I've been there. I'm a UCLA Law graduate and real life attorney licensed to practice in the state of California.

Max Fischer (Rushmore):

What are you, a lawyer?

Branden:

I'm also a current LSATMax and BarMax instructor. If you're a student, you might know me from office hours or through tutoring. I know exactly how much you have riding on this one test and I'm here to help. I took the LSAT too many years ago to count or to admit anyway. I wasn't one of those 175 on the first try guys. I had to work for my score. And it forced me to analyze my own performance, find my weaknesses, and formulate a strategy to tackle them. That's the approach I've taken teaching and tutoring the LSAT since 2013.

Jelena:

I'm not an attorney. I haven't even applied to law school, at least not yet. I just really like the LSAT. I know, I know, super weird. But when I studied for the LSAT, I loved that I had to learn a totally new set of skills and then apply them in a strictly timed setting. The challenge of understanding the LSAT helped me understand my own study habits and learning style in a new way. Plus, I got totally addicted to logic games. LSAC, if you're listening, please start publishing books of extra games. I've done them all and I want more. My 178 in June of 2017 got me started with tutoring. I'm now an LSATMax instructor here to help you love the LSAT too. Seriously, it is possible.

Branden:

So now that you know who we are and where we get off telling you how to study for the LSAT, let's take a look at a couple of bits of recent news from LSAT land.

Jelena:

First of all, the biggest question we've been getting from our students is how will coronavirus affect LSAT takers? We wanted to go ahead and address that at the top of the show.

Speaker 6:

Pandemic, right here.

Branden:

So LSAC has goodish news for most students. If you don't feel comfortable taking the March 2020 test, they're waiving change fees so you can switch to April, June, or July 2020 at no additional cost. The deadline to make the changes March 20, 2020 at 11:59 pm eastern time.

Jelena:

If you do decide to take the March test, LSAC has changed the rules to allow you to wear a face mask during the test and bring hand sanitizer. This is a pretty big deal for LSAC because paper items such as masks are usually very much prohibited. Hopefully they'll keep this new rule for flu seasons in the future. Even when corona isn't around, anyone who thinks they might be sick should be allowed to protect others by wearing a mask.

Branden:

And there's some not so great news for international test takers. March 2020 LSAT administrations have been canceled in South Korea, Thailand, Japan, China, and Hong Kong. There's no guarantee that those will be the only countries where the test is canceled either. We'll put a link in the show notes to LSAC's information page where all updates will be posted.

Jelena:

Now for some much less terrifying LSAT news. LSAC recently announced upcoming testing dates from June of 2020 through April of 2021. You can take the LSAT on June 8, 2020 at 12:30 pm. That'll be a disclosed test. Next is July 13th, also at 12:30 PM. That one will be non-disclosed. As usual, June and July will be your only afternoon testing opportunities. So night owls, you are going to want to sign up for one of those dates.

Branden:

By the way, disclosed tests are the ones where the full test will be released. So when you get your score report, you'll also get PDFs of every section of the test except the experimental section. And you can go over all the questions you got wrong. Especially for first-time test takers, a disclosed test is a great choice. If you end up retaking, you can go over your mistakes and use them to make a study plan for the next test. If you take a non-disclosed test, you get your score and percentile, that's it.

Jelena:

This fall, you've got 8:30 am tests on August 29th, October 3rd, and November 14th. August and November will be disclosed, October won't be.

Branden:

Important to note that this year, November is the last administration for the year. There used to be tests every December, but LSAC seems to be defaulting to November and January instead now.

Jelena:

The first LSAT of 2021 is January 16th at 8:30 am. Tests will also be offered at 8:30 am on February 20th and April 10th of 2021. None of those will be disclosed.

Branden:

And that fits the pattern we saw this year. The first three administrations of 2020 are also non-disclosed. So don't panic. LSAC probably does intend to keep disclosing a few tests a year, just not the spring tests.

Jelena:

Just another reason I'll continue to prefer the summer tests.

Branden:

One notable change is day of the week. From June 2019 to April of 2020, there were six Monday exams and three Saturday exams. From June 2020 to April 2021, there will be six Saturday exams and two Monday exams.

Jelena:

I'm guessing they made that change for staffing reasons. Saturday tests require a separate administration as an accommodation for Saturday Sabbath observers, but Monday tests mean a lot of potential proctors will be busy at their day jobs. It sounds like LSAC decided not having enough proctors is a bigger headache than dealing with the Saturday Sabbath. There were a lot of complaints about staffing and administration in 2019. Hopefully this means we won't see as many problems this year or next.

Branden:

One more piece of recent LSAT news. Earlier this year, the University of Oregon announced that they'll admit up to 10% of their law school entering class without requiring the LSAT. For context, Oregon law is currently number 83 in the US News and World Report law school rankings. The median LSAT score for their class of 2020 was a 157.

Jelena:

Don't get too excited though. This LSAT waiver only applies to Oregon Law applicants who scored at or above the 85th percentile on the ACT or SAT and who are ranked in the top 10% of their undergraduate class through six semesters of academic work or achieved a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or above through six semesters of academic work. So most applicants will still have to take the LSAT.

Branden:

This change will probably be most helpful to local undergrads who already know they want to go to the U of Oregon for law school. But if this reflects a trend, we could see more law schools trying out new ways to select a portion of their entering classes.

Jelena:

We've already seen some law schools allow the GRE as an LSAT alternative, including Harvard.

Elle Woods (Legally Blonde):

What? Like it's hard?

Jelena:

And it's possible that lower ranking schools will try to attract top students by letting them skip the LSAT. But for the foreseeable future, a high LSAT score will still be the best way to improve your chances of admission.

Branden:

Shall we move on to our marquee topic?

Jelena:

That is why you have to take this test to get into law school and how all this wacky stuff about dinosaurs and race horses applies to studying the law.

Branden:

Exactly. And I have some pretty strong feelings about this subject. So I've actually had tons and tons of students who ask mostly about logic games. With logical reasoning, with reading comprehension, people know that lawyers make arguments, they know that lawyers do a lot of reading and writing. But then when it comes to logic games, they just say, "What on earth does this have to do with anything?" So you have clowns getting out of a car and you say, "Well, why do I need to know in what order clowns get out of a car to go to law school?" Well, we could have a very long conversation about this, but really what logic games are asking you to do is to apply rules to facts. And that's something that you do a lot in law school.

Branden:

As far as what is it that it most closely resembles that you're going to do when you're in law school? I think what it most closely resembles is statutory analysis. So a statute is just a law that's passed by Congress or by the legislature in a particular state. And when you decide whether or not you're going to trigger a provision of a statute, when you decide whether or not a statute applies to your case, a whole lot of things start happening when you trigger the statute. Other provisions of the statute are triggered, there's case law that governs the statute that also may be triggered. And I think a lot of what logic games is testing you on is just your ability to see what happens downstream. So if we've got seven runners finishing a race and I determine, they ask me, "Bob finishes third, which one of the following must be true," well, that means a provision has been triggered and now I just have to figure out, using the rules, all of the things that happen downstream. So as much as you might hate logic games, Jelena loves logic games and so we will leave her out of this one, you are learning how to think like a lawyer by doing logic games.

Jelena:

Just to put in a good word here for the weirdos who love logic games, it's really just a life skill that is becoming more and more useful in the world, even if it doesn't feel like it when you're ordering your clowns or flower deliveries or race horses. I come from the tech world in my own background, and algorithmic reasoning is the basis of the entire computerized world that we interact with constantly. You have an algorithmic device in your pocket right now that you are probably listening to this podcast on. The definition of an algorithm is just a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations. And that kind of sounds exactly like a description of logic games. So simply understanding and knowing how to apply algorithmic reasoning, it's not just useful for law school, it's actually the basis for so many of the applications, the technologies, the devices that not only do we use every day, but we depend on for essential elements of life like voting, like health care, like transportation. Increasingly our cars are going to be becoming self-driving using more and more computerized operations to get us around.

Jelena:

And just simply being a person who has experienced using and applying an algorithm to your diagram by doing logic games gives you a new insight into why and how algorithms affect what Branden was just talking about, all of those downstream situations. When you change one thing, when you trigger one thing in an algorithmic scenario, then you are affecting all of these downstream components. And being able to see that through logic games helps you understand the world around you.

Branden:

Well, as somebody who is tech illiterate and has been for a long time, I now know at age 41, the definition of algorithm. And so I would like to thank you for that, Jelena.

Jelena:

You're welcome. You're welcome. See, the LSAT is improving your life and giving you new life skills even years after you took it and graduated from law school.

Branden:

Yeah, it has been years, hasn't it?

Jelena:

Sorry for the reminder. One of the other things that I wanted to point out about the importance of this test to your future is that even whether or not you go to law school, learning about logical fallacies is also an important life skill from the LSAT. Of course, those of you who are already studying, who are already working on your logical reasoning, you know, that not only are all of the flaw questions on that section of the test based on the concept of logical fallacies, almost all of the stimuli, stimuluses, I'm never really quite sure how we're supposed to do that plural in LSAT land, all of those are deeply flawed arguments. The LSAT is an exercise in comparing and working with flawed arguments. And understanding those fallacies in those arguments lets you see fallacies wherever else they might crop up in your life, like say with the politicians and news anchors who are throwing fallacious arguments at you to try to get you to support something that might be against your own better interests.

Branden:

Well, when has that ever happened?

Jelena:

I'm sure it'll happen eventually. I don't know. You watching the debate?

Branden:

Not me. But that actually brings up what I think is one of the kind of mental shifts that you have to do with the LSAT, which is that you spend... Most people who take the LSAT, they were humanities majors, they spent four years reading and then being tested on what they're reading. But what you are being given to read is something that your professor thinks is going to enlighten you. Well, on the LSAT, you're being given the opposite. You're not being given something that's going to enlighten you. Instead, what you're being given in the most delicate way I can put it is garbage. And it's your job to understand not only that the argument that you were being served is a bad argument that should not be believed, but it's your job to analyze that argument and to figure out what is wrong with it and what is bad with it.

Branden:

And obviously, and this, I think, makes a little more sense for students who are thinking about the LSAT and how it relates to law school, that's what you do as a lawyer. You want to make sure that first of all that you're presenting arguments that are logical and that are fallacy-free, but you also want to get very good at picking out the problems with your opponent's argument. The problem with this and what you'll find unless you marry another lawyer is that it gives you a superpower that makes you really, really annoying.

Saul Goodman (Better Call Saul):

It's all good, man.

Branden:

Which is that you can figure out what is wrong with what somebody is saying to you and you can give it back to them in real time. And so you have to be very careful with that superpower because it ends relationships very quickly.

Jelena:

That's totally true. Now that I have enough of my tutoring students, my LSAT students in law school and giving me updates on their journey, I've started giving all of my new students the advice that if you are dating someone on day one of law school and you guys are still together at graduation, you might as well just marry them because they've already put up with more from you than anybody else ever will in your life.

Branden:

Yeah. I actually, when I was studying for the LSAT, I was studying with my girlfriend at the time, and our relationship did not survive studying for the LSAT. That's as personal as I'm getting on this podcast.

Jelena:

RIP, RIP Branden's pre-law school relationship.

Branden:

Yes.

Jelena:

May it rest in peace. Now, that does also bring up one of the reasons that law schools want you to take this particular test. As annoying as it's going to be for your partner, your friends, your family as you change into a different kind of person who argues in a different kind of way through law school, law schools are looking for people who are willing to undergo that kind of transformation in the way that they think. Thinking like a lawyer is necessarily very different from thinking like a boyfriend or thinking like a girlfriend or a cousin or a daughter or a mother. You are accomplishing a very specific task as a lawyer within a very restrictive and rule-based system.

Jelena:

And your level of willingness to go through the law school experience and allow them to tell you, "Hey, the old way that you used to think and deal with problems and arguments is not going to be useful to your future life as a lawyer, so why don't you drop it and learn to think like a lawyer?" that determines how successful of a law student and eventually how successful of an attorney you will be. So they are looking for people who through getting a great LSAT score have demonstrated that they are willing to learn a new kind of bizarre, antiquated feeling, rules-based system with severe limitations on their ability to think originally and creatively, which is what you're going to do as a lawyer.

Branden:

That is exactly what you were going to do as a lawyer. So I don't think we've touched on reading comprehension yet. And it's testing, I think, something that is very practical, more than the other sections are. And so if you've taken a whole practice exam, or if you've even just sat down and tried to take a timed reading comp passage, what you're going to find is that there is just not enough time to do that. And that is actually, I think, most of the point of reading comprehension. Now they're testing your ability to read a judicial opinion, to track the arguments that you would find in a judicial opinion, and that's most of what you do in law school, most of your reading. A judge writes an opinion. The judge delivers the... Well, actually it's the judge's clerk. The judge is not writing the opinion. But they deliver the arguments of plaintiff and defendant. And then usually the judge decides which one is good or which one is bad.

Branden:

And so that's the task you're being asked to perform is to track those arguments, to understand what the judge or the author thinks about them. But I think layered on top of that, the fact that they make you do so much with so little time is just a practical concern. Because, and I'm not trying to get any of you to not go to law school, but what you're going to find when you go to law school is you're going to go home every day with 200 pages of reading for three different subjects. And then you're going to come back and be grilled on that reading by the world's foremost expert and probably the person who wrote the book that you read. And so can you just process a massive amount of information in a short period of time and answer questions intelligently about it? That's why reading comp is so hard to deal with, at least the timing aspect of it. But that's what they are testing you on. And so it's good to show you what your time management is going to need to look like in law school. So I guess get used to it.

Jelena:

Absolutely. Now when I was studying for the LSAT, I really learned about myself that I had never actually learned study skills. In undergrad, I was one of those annoying people who starts their final paper at 10:00 pm and it's due at 8:00 am the next morning. One of the stories I always tell about myself as a college student is that I did not study for my term paper in Econ and realized this the day before it was due. And the way that I decided to approach that problem was not through somehow retroactively going back and studying for the entire semester that I should have been reading my book, I went on OkCupid and found an economist willing to help me write my term paper in exchange for some subtle flirtation via Words with Friends.

Branden:

So that's how to succeed in college by Jelena.

Jelena:

How to succeed in law school, not so much. It doesn't work anymore once you actually have to do things that you cannot fake. You cannot fake the LSAT. You are wrong or you are right. It's not like a paper where you can just be such a persuasive writer that your professor is like, "Well, I'm not sure if they read the book, but this is well-written and a persuasive argument so I'll give it a B." Does not work like that on the LSAT. You either get the point for the question or you don't. The LSAT is what gave me study skills, which is something that I'm going to have for the rest of my life now. Now I actually have the ability to sit down and do a little bit of studying each day.

Branden:

It is an implacable foe that you cannot bargain with you can only supplicate with lots and lots of studying. Luckily for you when you get to law school, or at least my experience with law school was the first year was really hard, and then the next two years, I basically never went to class because all I did was buy supplements and read through the supplements and then write essays on my essay exams using the information from those supplements. Do not take that as advice for how you should do law school, it's just an option if you're the kind of person like me who does that kind of stuff.

Jelena:

We actually do have some advice for how you should do law school if you happen to be a 1L, right Branden?

Branden:

Oh, I have plenty of advice for that. And the 1L stuff is very, very, very difficult. What I would say, and obviously this is a little off topic for LSAT studying, but you must unlearn what you have learned for law school. And you must be ready to sit back and accept what is coming at you. I think the hardest thing in law school, and this is true of the practice of law no matter what you're doing, is there are just no right answers. There are arguments. And so if you have been used to right answers, get unused to that.

Jelena:

And we can help you with that through our TestMax 1L app.

Branden:

That is very true. We can also help you with the bar exam down the road.

Jelena:

That is one of Branden's fortes. So, kind of last point I wanted to make on this, we've done this, we've been talking on this podcast about the reasons to embrace and enjoy and accept the LSAT as part of your journey towards the practice of law. That doesn't mean we think it's perfect. Of course we don't. We are on the front lines of watching students who we think would be brilliant lawyers and wonderful law students struggle to get that great score all the time. As far as standardized tests go, and I am someone who personally really hates most standardized tests, I actually did not take the SATs or the ACTs because I decided to protest them instead, this one works well. This was the only standardized test that I really do like.

Jelena:

But that doesn't mean it's perfect. There are aspects of it that are biased. If you speak English as a second language, if you learned English as an adult, some of that really obscure 25-cent word where a five-cent word would do language on reading comp is just going to be harder for you no matter how smart and talented you are, versus someone who has been speaking the English language since they were a baby. And people who just happened to have a slow reading speed, that doesn't mean you're going to be a terrible lawyer. Most of the time you are not sitting in a courtroom with 35 minutes to complete a key filing before the judge throws you out. That's never happened to you, has it Branden?

Branden:

No, it has not.

Jelena:

So this crazy timed test, in some ways it prioritizes skills that are not important for your future as a lawyer. So it's not perfect. It has its biases. But if you accept its imperfection and make it your friend much like your human imperfect friends, it can take you a little farther than if you focus on the flaws and fight with it.

Branden:

True. And studies have shown that it correlates slightly better with performance in law school than does undergraduate GPA. And I understand why law schools want it because it's standardized. It's a lot easier, if you look at two people and they both have a 160 on the LSAT, well, you can make a comparison between the two of them. If you look at somebody who has a 3.2 GPA from... I'm going to step on some toes here, I don't know, Cal State in let's say independent studies, versus a 3.2 in chemical engineering from Harvard...

Elle Woods (Legally Blonde):

What? Like it's hard?

Branden:

Well, those are not necessarily comparable.

Jelena:

There goes half our listeners, Branden.

Branden:

I know. I'm good at subtraction, not so much with the addition.

Jelena:

It's okay. Neither of those are tested on the LSAT.

Branden:

Yay. That's why I like the LSAT. So that's what whether or not life on other planets requires methane to survive has to do with you getting into law school.

Jelena:

Let's take a quick break and then we'll dive into some student questions.

Speaker:

We interrupt our program to bring you this important message.

Jelena:

With coronavirus wreaking havoc all over the planet, we know what you're thinking.

Audio clip from The Wire TV show:

Pandemic, right here.

Jelena:

How will this affect my LSAT score?

Branden:

At LSATMax, we've long been concerned about the potential for a global pandemic, which is why 100% of our courses are available on demand unlike our competitors. What are the symptoms, again?

Jelena:

Don't take an in-class course and run the risk of infection, or even worse, subpar LSAT prep instruction. Instead, quarantine yourself at home with your new digital BFF, LSATMax, as our 99th percentile instructors teach you how to ace the LSAT and avoid the scariest of all tests results, a low LSAT score.

Branden:

Since everything else you were planning to do has probably been canceled by now, download our free five-star rated app and get started today with your coronavirus-free LSAT prep. Just search LSATMax in the app store.

Back to the show. Let's get into some of your questions. Now, since this is our first episode, we asked our personal students to send in some questions we could answer on the pod. To ask a question for future shows, you can email us at podcast@testmaxprep.com or leave us a voicemail at (310) 893-6303.

Jelena:

Jessica is going to jump in as the voice of our students here.

Jessica:

Kate sent us this question. I hate reading comp. The passages are always so dull I can't help zoning out. Everyone I know who studying for the LSAT gets bored with reading comp too. How can I stay focused when I hate it?

Branden:

I actually get this question a lot. I don't know if anyone's done a survey on students most and least favorite sections, but anecdotally it seems like most students hate reading comprehension.

Jelena:

When I took my LSAT, everyone waiting in line to get into the testing room was talking about how they hoped for anything but RC is their experimental section. Definitely tracks with my experiences as an instructor too. So many LSAT disaster stories have to do with getting lost on RC.

Branden:

The good news is there's a solution to Kate's problem. And it's to treat each passage as a puzzle with pieces to find and assemble. Now, the pieces I'm talking about are pieces of an argument. There's always at least one conclusion in a passage and there are always one or more premises supporting each conclusion. As you're reading, you should be actively considering how what you're reading fits in. Is it a conclusion? Certain things that are commonly conclusions are things like a hypothesis in a science passage or some kind of recommendation that the law be changed in a legal passage. Is it a premise supporting a conclusion elsewhere? Certain things like examples or experiments or studies are almost always premises. Is it a criticism? If there are multiple conclusions, with which does the author agree? These are things you should jot down on your scratch paper while you read. Now, this method isn't to make the passage exciting, but it will give you an activity to engage in as you read, which keeps your attention nonetheless.

Jelena:

Definitely agree with all of that. The one thing I'd add is keep in mind it's totally okay if you forget everything about the subject of the passage after you're done with it. Dark matter passage? Don't worry, you do not have to learn anything about dark matter. So don't even put that stress on yourself. Focus just on the structure of the argument and the techniques of argumentation that are used.

Branden:

Exactly. And I think we've got one other question.

Jessica:

Nelson writes, "So what exactly does character and fitness mean to law schools? And how big does an issue have to be for you to need to disclose it on law school applications?"

Jelena:

So for those of us like me who have not actually gone through the applications process yet, what he's referring to is yes or no questions on law school applications that ask you about any academic disciplinary actions taken against you in the past and if you've been charged with any criminal or civil offenses. The wording varies. Some of them want you to check yes if you were ever charged or cited for anything no matter how small. Others only ask you to check yes if you were convicted of an offense that had jail time as a possible penalty. Either way, if you check, yes, you'll have to write an addendum to your application that explains what happened.

Branden:

I have been through the application process. And I can tell you that you're probably stressing way too much about this. Yes, you should disclose anything that the wording of the application asks you to disclose. Lying or fudging even a little bit can cost you your admission if they find out. But whatever you have to disclose, chances are you can explain it in a way that prevents it from hurting your application. I always remind my students, people who've been in jail for serious crimes become lawyers all the time.

Saul Goodman (Better Call Saul):

It's all good, man.

Branden:

The key is demonstrating in your addendum that whatever is in your past is going to stay in the past, as in you won't repeat it and you learned something from it.

Jelena:

Honestly, some character and fitness issues might actually make you more attractive to certain law schools. Offenses like reckless driving or drunk in public, you just have to explain and hope they believe that you've matured. But if you got arrested for civil disobedience during a climate protest, that's kind of cool. Or if you were on academic probation because of a serious issue in your personal life that you later overcame and raised your GPA before graduation, that shows your personal resilience. And law schools really like people who can handle adversity.

Branden:

Probably because law school itself is a form of adversity. If you've never had to deal with anything tough before in your life, you might not cope too well with the pressures of law school.

Jelena:

If you do have to write a character and fitness addendum, just make sure that your letters of reference also say glowing things about your character to balance it out.

Branden:

And keep in mind, law schools know they're dealing with human beings, most of them fairly young, not saints. They just want to make sure that they aren't going to regret letting you in. If they like the rest of your application, they want your addendum to convince them that they're right in thinking you're a good prospect for admission. It's a friendly audience.

Jelena:

And that's all the student questions for today. Let's finish up the podcast with our featured LR question of the week.

Branden:

This week, we're featuring one of the most missed questions on the LSATMax platform. We know it might be hard to follow this in audio format, so make sure you follow up by reviewing the June 2007 LSAT, which by the way is available to take for free as a digital LSAT in our five-star rated app for iOS and Android. Just search LSATMax in the app store. This is section three, question number 16.

Jelena:

The prompt is, "Which one of the following most logically completes the philosopher's argument?" That makes this an argument completion question. And here's the stimulus. Philosopher: nations are not literally persons. They have no thoughts or feelings, and literally speaking, they perform no actions. Thus, they have no moral rights or responsibilities. But no nation can survive unless many of its citizens attribute such rights and responsibilities to it, for nothing else could prompt people to make the sacrifices national citizenship demands. Obviously then a nation... Blank.

Branden:

Whoa, weird philosophy alert.

Jelena:

Seriously, did [inaudible 00:33:50] travel back in time to 2007 and write this question?

Branden:

With the power of Jeremy Barony, anything is possible.

Jelena:

Anyway, since this is argument completion, we don't have any conclusions to identify. Instead, it'll be our job to draw a conclusion. And there are some really strong conditional statements here to use in doing so.

Branden:

Yeah, there's some big time logical force here. Nations perform no actions. No nation can survive unless. Nothing else would prompt citizens to sacrifice. This is even strong enough to be diagrammable, but I don't necessarily recommend that here.

Jelena:

Yeah, there's definitely an easier way. We can just focus in on the strongest rule. No nation can survive unless many of its citizens attribute moral rights and responsibilities to it. Then we just combine that with the fact that no nation has moral rights and responsibilities.

Branden:

That gives us roughly no nation can survive unless citizens attribute traits no nation has to it. Or, taking the negatives out, if a nation survives, its citizens attribute traits to it that it doesn't have. The verbiage is odd, but the logic is sound. Let's go on to the answer choices.

Jelena:

A, cannot continue to exist unless something other than the false belief that the nation has moral rights motivates its citizens to make sacrifices. And by the way, 32.4% of LSATMax students chose that one. B, cannot survive unless many of its citizens have some beliefs that are literally false. This was chosen by 28% of students. C, can never be a target of moral praise or blame. Only 9.8% of students chose that one. D, is not worth the sacrifices that citizens make on its behalf. That's 3.8%. Or E, should always be thought of in metaphorical rather than literal terms. And that got 25.9% of you to choose it.

Branden:

So let's start with the most popular trap answer, A. This contradicts a premise of the stimulus, which is a big no-no on the LSAT, unless that is you're being asked to weaken an argument. But we aren't being asked to do that here. And answers that contradict a premise are rare, even on weaken questions. Sorry for the aside, now back to the question. The stimulus tells us that nothing else could prompt people to make the sacrifices that national citizenship demands. So 32.4% of students, you have been found guilty of the sin of contradicting a premise and are sentenced to do this question again.

Jelena:

As for E, there's a fatal flaw there too. Nothing in the stimulus supports this. And since we're looking to complete the argument to find a reasonable conclusion, derived from the premises, that's a bad deal. The stimulus doesn't actually even delve into metaphorical versus literal thinking at all. The only use of literally is to say that nations are not literally persons. So there's nothing to suggest that citizens don't just think nations literally have moral rights, even though that would be false. People think false things all the time.

Branden:

Which brings us to the right answer, B. For a nation to survive, its citizens have to believe things that if taken literally are false, specifically, that nations have moral rights and or responsibilities.

Jelena:

Strange but true. If you believe only things that are literally true, according to this LSAT question, your nation is doomed to perish.

Branden:

Let's end with some key takeaways from this week. And mine is this. The LSAT primarily tests your ability to be critical of arguments, something that most of us don't spend a lot of time doing in our day to day lives. Who's got time to argue?

Max Fischer (Rushmore):

What are you, a lawyer?

Branden:

But the political season is upon us and you are constantly being courted by people making arguments, whether you know it or not. I encourage you to tune into a debate or a town hall or even just watch the political ad rather than using it and be critical of it. Were you convinced? If so, what was persuasive about it? Were you put off by it? Well, what's bad about it? Lots of times there's a flaw in the argument they're making and identifying it is great practice, if you can. And at the end of the day, there's reason just about every politician is a lawyer. Learn how they do what they do and you'll be better prepared to make your own arguments starting your very first day of 1L.

Jelena:

My key takeaway is if you're feeling like an LR question is so irrelevant to your life and to law school that you're mad you even have to do it, change the subject to something you do care about. But as long as you keep the logic and argumentation the same, you can pretend that question about whether or not a fictional city can afford to restore its capitol building is a question about whether or not the United States can afford universal healthcare. This trick works for super abstract topics too. If your brain goes on the fritz like mine when thinking about proton covered quasars, quasars, quasars, mentally change the subject of the question to chocolate covered almonds. This takes up too much time to do it all the time, so save it for situations where you feel like you're going to miss the question because you don't care about or don't understand the subject matter. But in those scenarios, it is a great trick.

Jelena:

And that's our show for today. Thanks for tuning in and helping us try something new. We're still working out how to make this the most useful LAST podcast available anywhere, so please don't hesitate to send in your feedback.

Branden:

Thanks for listening. We'll be back next week with whatever we're doing next week.

Jelena:

We'll let you know later. We'll let you know when we figure that out. You can find all of our past episodes of which there are currently zero on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever else you get your podcasts. You can also send us a question at podcast@testmaxprep.com or record a short voice message at (310) 893-6303.

Branden:

You can also check out the show notes for links to further reading and resources from today's episode.

Jelena:

Until next week, stay hydrated, study hard, and remember, plenty of heroes carry a briefcase.

Branden:

Plenty of heroes carry a briefcase.

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