Jurist and law professor Richard Posner recently commented on a common problem among lawyers, namely, that they believe they have a “math block.” Jackson v. Pollion, 733 F.3d 786, 788 (7th Cir. 2013). More recently, Judge and Mediator Wayne D. Brazil noted that even sophisticated risk analysts “cannot reliably determine the ‘discounted settlement value’ of a case” because of their misunderstanding of how to apply mathematical principles to real-world decision making. In fact, if you are a lawyer, you have likely heard other lawyers make jokes about how if they could do math, they would not have gone to law school, but rather business or medical school. You may have even made these jokes yourself.
Posner, however, believes that lawyers’ basic discomfort around math is a serious matter, and one that disadvantages clients. He points to the need for lawyers in litigation related to emerging science or technology to understand the evidence and underlying facts. We posit that the need for comfort with math applies much more broadly. In fact, if a lawyer is uncomfortable with “math,” “numbers,” or “metrics,” there are an ever-vanishing number of circumstances where the lawyer can do his or her job effectively. Our expertise is insurance recovery. The underlying fact patterns in our field more frequently deal with decades-old contracts than cutting-edge technology. Nevertheless, we quantify, organize data, make calculations, and wrestle with financial concepts in virtually every matter we encounter.
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