In House Lawyers Agree: We Are Afraid of Math

By Cristina Yu, Esq. on May 06, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Maybe not just in-house lawyers, but really, how many lawyers of all stripes out there are afraid of math?

Fear of math can cause real pain as well as embarrassment, reports CBS. Now double that if you are counsel to a company that does engineering. Or pharmaceuticals. Or genetics. Or real estate. Or taxes.

Or anything.

If you declare that you "can't do math," the non-lawyers at your company might not openly mock you, but your statement will not inspire confidence in your abilities. Would you trust a professional who was otherwise great but couldn't read?

Why Are Lawyers "Bad" at Math?

Maybe for the same reason most people are. The way math is (not) taught might be one reason. The majority of high school students don't have a solid grasp of fifth-grade skills such as fractions and long division. Without those basics, their math classes are places of frustration and confusion and they learn to avoid math whenever possible.

Women are particularly prone to math anxiety because we are continually told that we are bad at math. This is a fallacy. Girls outperform boys in all subjects, including math and science. Put another way, if you look at a bell curve of girls' and boys' academic achievement in math, the girls' curve is shifted to the right.

True, there are more outliers among the boys -- more boys who are terrible at math and more who are geniuses. Perhaps that is the reason for the mistaken idea that girls are bad at math. The fact remains: According to Time, in general, girls are better at math than boys.

So What's a Lawyer to Do?

If you want to shore up your basic skills, there are plenty of math books for adults on Amazon. The Khan Academy has extensive online resources. Later on, you might want to flex your math muscles by reading Statistics in Plain English or taking free online courses from universities like MIT and Stanford on Coursera.

But How Am I Going to Use This in Real Life?

Why would an in-house lawyer want to spend time re-learning basic math skills? Maybe you want to have more confidence when you deal with company employees who have a more technical backgrounds. Maybe you want to foster a better connection with them. Maybe you want to challenge yourself by doing something you once feared. Maybe you want to look at a balance sheet without having chest pains.

Maybe you want to do your job better.

Whatever your reason, it's a worthwhile endeavor. There's no reason for a lawyer to be afraid of math. Hey, compared to the Bar, how hard could it be?

Editor's note, May 10, 2016: This post was first published in May, 2014. It has since been updated.

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