LSAT Kung Fu Blog / LSAT Kung Fu Blog
LSAT Kung Fu Blog
This week, I want to talk about soundness. So that's what I'm going to do. YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME, WORLD.
K. Got that out of my system. Let's do this:
Soundness, as a principle, is the simultaneous measure of two distinct aspects of a deductive argument: its coherence and its validity. OK. So what’re coherence and validity? We’re glad you asked!
Remember our tow-chain from two weeks ago? Let’s get that image back in our minds to continue. Got it? Excellent.
Coherence is a measure of an argument’s logical connectivity; coherence measures whether or not all the pieces link together. If all the links in our chain of evidence lead – without any gaps – to a conclusion, then our chain is continuous; it is coherent. If you remove a link from the chain, the argument ceases to be connected; if any link is missing, the argument is incoherent.
So, you’ve heard somewhere that the LSAT is a test that demands that you successfully weigh evidence against claims. OK, sure. But what does that mean?
First, let’s establish some ground rules:
A. The LSAT is a test of reasoning, not of research. You will be asked to attack, defend, analyze, and identify the claims made in the arguments provided on the LSAT. You will never be asked to attack, criticize, or question the evidence provided in those arguments. In other words, we will stipulate the truth of everything offered as evidence on this test. Thus, if an argument claims that Melissa is from Venus on the basis of evidence that some girls are from Venus, then we may demonstrate that the claim is unproved by the evidence, but we must also happily assent to the idea that there are some girls from Venus (even if we know in our hearts that that isn’t true, really). Take as true every piece of evidence you are offered on the test.
I have a pretty good example this week of why you should do what you want to do in college, instead of doing what you think will make you a better candidate for law school. First, because doing what you want to do will make you a better candidate for law school. But we’re not here to talk about that. We’re here to talk about video editing.
This week marked the 20th anniversary of the IRS’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC). To celebrate, they threw an absolute rager. There were keg stands, lines for the bathroom, lines in the bathroom, half of Cirque du Soleil showed up drunk and in a mood to show off, and Tobey Maguire kept challenging people to play poker until he was mauled by Zazie Beetz who came in full-on Domino formation and wasn’t taking prisoners.
Well, I mean, sort of.
I mean, I guess if I’m being perfectly honest, not all of that happened.
But one thing undeniably did; the IRS asked firms across the country that have participated in their LITC to send in short videos to commemorate the anniversary. My firm sent one in.
Initially, my supervising attorney was just going to have the receptionist walk around behind her with her phone, I think. I suggested that I might be able to help.
Here’s a thing I’ve learned this summer; DHS (the Department of Homeland Security) and USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) rival the IRS in the number, scope, complexity and inanity of their forms. I’ve become very familiar with:
As you get started with your LSAT prep (or somewhere in the middle of LSAT prep, or even if you’re already well into your LSAT prep. OK, let’s just say that at any point in your LSAT prep), one of the key things you’ll need to figure out is how to find the Main Point of a Reading Comp passage.
Well, that’s where this post comes in! I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve decided to write a few words on identifying the main point of passages, and you are now reading those words. IT’S AN EXCITING TIME TO BE ALIVE.
Here’s one thing for you to do; every single time you read a passage, pretend that you have a friend sitting next to you. We’ll call that friend Francisco.
When you finish reading, turn to Francisco and say, “Francisco, I’ve just read a passage about [topic X].”
The words you put into those brackets are the main point of the passage.
See? The answer was in you all along! You’re just like the Karate Kid, but with less cultural appropriation.
Let’s do an example (using passage two from PrepTest 76, because that is where I opened my book while looking for an example to use).
In the dream, our impulse was to welcome rather than to turn away. We wanted to be a shining city on a hill,1 not too far away, not impossible to reach, with a draw like an electromagnet. We were not pollyanna-ish about it. We knew that we must protect ourselves because there are always threats.
In the dream, we were smarter. We knew that families fleeing persecution are not the threats. We also knew that separating families as a deterrent against future families seeking asylum was cruel, arbitrary, immoral, and pointless from a practical point of view. In the dream we were practical.
In the dream, we judged each other on the content of our character.2 We could tell who the good guys were and who the bad guys were by what they did. We didn’t make excuses for intolerable behavior. In the dream, we knew better.
In the dream, we believed it was important to be decent. We put a premium on it. We built a whole system of government to protect it against indecent men and women. In the dream, we thought that a decent majority would be an adequate backstop against the minority threat from the bad guys who are always present. In the dream, we knew enough not to give them power.
Yesterday we went to tax court!
One more exclamation point: !
OK. Two together now: !!
US Tax Court is a Federal trial-level court like the US District Courts, but it’s only for tax matters. Its decisions are appealable to the US Circuit Courts, just the same as any District Court’s decisions. The judges ride circuit! That means that they’re based in Washington, D.C., but they travel to courthouses around the country for one to three days at a stretch to hear cases. I love the term “ride circuit.” I didn’t look it up, but I’m pretty sure it comes from the days when there weren’t permanent judges in most locations, but instead judges from larger cities would literally ride their horses to smaller communities to hold court. It’s quaint!
I went to General Sessions Court yesterday, and to Juvenile Court today. I’ve been to both places before: GS Court in my own county for a traffic ticket (I WAS FRAMED I TELL YOU) and Juvenile Court in a nearby county many times as a CASA volunteer (you can really help out some kids, your local court system, and therefore the larger Cause of Justice if you can spare some time to volunteer for CASA. Do one year before you start law school (it’s probably too much to do while you’re in law school)).
It strikes me that if you want to understand America as it is today, you should go to court. On the outside, it’s usually a grand old pile. It’s intended, I think, to symbolize the central place of regard in which we were meant to hold the law in this country. Inside, it stinks of sweat and unwashed hair and unwashed clothes and a collective million years of cigarette smoke. There are torn jeans (but not the kind you pay $200 for) and stained shirts and wailing babies in just diapers. The only ones in suits are the lawyers. The building is suffused with the nearly-palpable miasma of people who are fighting over scraps. When scraps are all you have, they’re worth fighting over.
Well, the first week was interesting, and the second week was a weird series of adventures (well, that’s a generous characterization. I started to catch a cold Friday of Week 1, and by Memorial Day, it had turned into a sinus infection. I went in to work Tuesday and got sent home. I stayed home Wednesday too, and Thursday decided I had to actually go to a doctor (ugh). Loaded up on antibiotics, and Friday I carpooled with the other 1L summer clerk to the firm’s state main office for a day of training. That’s the extent of the adventures; postnasal drip, a long road-trip and a Memorial Day at home sick. So really I totally lied about the adventure aspect of Week 2).
I’m working in a small public interest firm. One thing that’s weird about this for me that may not be weird for you is that I’ve spent the last 10 years almost completely in charge of my own time (except when I taught live classes and had to be in the classroom at specified times; even then, though, I chose the class schedule). It’s been a strange transition to office work.
I’ll keep it short. I’ve been meaning to create a timeline to help you visualize how your LSAT prep should go. This week, after the end of the semester and before I start my summer job, seemed like the right time.
So I did. It’s above.
First, know that it’s intended as a rough guide to help you think about how to order your prep and roughly how much time to spend on each element of your prep. I didn’t mean it as a prescription—you may spend more or less time on any single element of your practice if it makes you feel happier. However, it is a pretty close approximation of my recommendations to you. So, for example, you may want to do 6 or 7 timed practice exams instead of 5 as your test date approaches. Fine, but it’s probably not best for your score to do 20 of those and not do any stop-time drills. In other words, as long as you’re sticking relatively close to this timeline, I think you’ll be doing good work.
Here’s the idea: From the time you press “play” on your first Velocity video until test day comes (and you’re ready for it!), your prep can fit into five main boxes. I recommend that you tackle those boxes in the following order: