Jonathan G. Blattmachr
Columbia University School of Law
Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy
New York and Los Angeles
Because I had long intended to be a mathematics professor, I gave little thought during high school and college to the practical use of mathematics and mathematical skills in endeavors outside of obvious ones such as engineering. Toward the end of my college days, I developed a great interest in economics. I did very well in economics-related subjects as a result of understanding mathematical principles. A significant portion of economic study revolves around interpreting and analyzing the interrelationships among factors which drive the economics of a particular organization, an industry, or even a country. The interpretation and analysis are tied primarily to mathematical principles. As much as I enjoyed economics, I ultimately decided to go to law school. I never considered that my study of mathematics would help me in law school. I was wrong.
Although I had no background in the law (I had not even taken one course in political science), I did well at one of the nation's best law schools. I attribute much of my academic success at the Columbia University School of Law to having learned, through the study of mathematics, and in particular theorems, how to analyze complicated principles. Comprehending certain laws is as challenging as understanding some of the most complicated mathematical theories you will encounter.
Now I practice law as a partner in one of the country's largest law firms. My work is concentrated in the areas of taxation and estate planning. I feel I have done well in my job, and I attribute much of that success to my facility with numbers and mathematical theory. Understanding a legal principle is important, but being able to apply it to produce a better result for a client is even more important and is often regarded as the hallmark of an outstanding lawyer. As the tax laws become more restrictive, understanding the full consequences of actions clients undertake is more important than ever.
Many lawyers, because of their inability to understand complicated theoretical concepts, are often bewildered when trying to foresee what the full impact of implementing certain actions will be. I have found that those who have studied mathematics can approach and master both the legal principles and their effect in a way which most others cannot. One of the younger women lawyers with whom I work has a strong mathematical background and has developed into an outstanding young lawyer. It is reinforced to me daily that one of the reasons she practices law so well is her strong facility for concepts â€“ a facility which was developed in her study of mathematics.
In addition to practicing law, I am involved with the development of a computer program which will assist other lawyers in estate planning for their clients. This program will not only allow lawyers to determine quickly the tax effects of plans and how tax principles may suggest a certain course of action for their clients, but also will allow attorneys to prepare documents (such as wills) in a very efficient and timely manner. The colleague with whom I have developed the program also has a strong background in math. We were able to prepare this program only because of our familiarity with mathematical concepts.