Jodi J Schwartz focuses on the tax aspects of corporate transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, spin-offs and financial instruments. Ms Schwartz has been the principal tax lawyer on numerous domestic and cross-border transactions in a wide range of industries. She was elected partner in 1990. Ms Schwartz received her BS in economics, magna cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania in 1981; her MBA from the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton School) in 1984; her JD, magna cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1984; and her LLM in taxation from the New York University Law School in 1987.
WHAT DID YOU FIND MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT ENTERING TAX PRACTICE?
Obviously a practising tax lawyer needs a great deal of substantive knowledge, especially in a firm like ours where we each are generalists. However, knowing the law is only the first step. Tax is the ultimate intersection of law and business. Law students are taught to deal with black and white issues – but the real world is grey. Often a client’s business desires cause facts to be murky and law to be unclear. Trusting your own judgement, and helping clients understand risk, are critical skills.
LOOKING BACK OVER YOUR CAREER, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE TAX CASE?
I like all my clients equally and have found it just as rewarding to structure a multibillion-dollar transaction as to do a small divestiture, or even to convince a client not to do something motivated by tax considerations. When I look back on the past year, the new tax law has, not surprisingly, caused all tax lawyers to look at the same things differently and that has been both exciting and frustrating at times. Whether it’s adapting to new laws or to new business trends, the fun thing about my practice is no two deals are alike – I am never doing the cookie-cutter transaction!
WHAT QUALITIES MAKE FOR A TOP-FLIGHT TAX SPECIALIST?
Tax lawyers need to be excellent lawyers – we are charged with analysing a statute, case law, regulations and other guidance. We need to understand the client’s business and economic goals – a great tax result is only part of the story. We need to be excellent translators of complex, unintuitive concepts to business people with little technical background – and to do so in a way that lets them make business decisions without overburdening them with minutiae.
IN WHAT WAYS DOES WACHTELL, LIPTON, ROSEN & KATZ DISTINGUISH ITSELF FROM THE COMPETITION?
We bring a team-oriented, partner-heavy approach to all problems. Tax lawyers are integral parts of the team from beginning to end and we understand the transactions intimately. We have seen innumerable transactions and we bring that experience to all matters. Finally, as generalists we bring perspective and fresh thinking to all of our matters – nothing is merely a clone of the last deal.
HOW HAS YOUR ROLE AS FORMER CHAIR OF THE TAX SECTION OF THE NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION (NYSBA) ENHANCED YOUR PRACTICE?
Part of being a good generalist tax lawyer is understanding a wide variety of issues. The process by which the NYSBA writes and analyses reports makes all the participants learn material with which they are not familiar and think about issues they might otherwise not face in their day-to-day practices. Additionally, the network of professionals gained through working on the bar is an incredible asset.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR PRACTICE DEVELOPING OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
The fun part about my practice is you never know where we are heading because it depends so much on business trends and developments. If I had a crystal ball, I suspect I would predict some significant cross-border transactions as well as continuation of a fair amount of spin-off activity to improve corporate “focus”.
YOU PREVIOUSLY TOLD WWL THAT THE INCREASING COMPLEXITY OF TAX LAW, HYPER-SPECIALISATION AND AN UNCERTAIN LEGISLATIVE ENVIRONMENT WERE THE MAIN CHALLENGES FACING PRACTITIONERS. HOW HAVE YOU AND YOUR FIRM ADDRESSED THESE CHALLENGES?
We remain stubborn generalists. By actively remaining involved in the NYSBA, in PLI and other speaking and writing we stay on the cutting edge of legal developments. Our team approach to issues is also critical – clients don’t belong to any of us, we all work together in the clients’ best interests. And of course, all of us actively mentor and work with talented young people to foster the necessary skills in the next generation of fabulous tax lawyers.
YOU HAVE HAD A VERY DISTINGUISHED CAREER TO DATE. WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACHIEVE?
I love to come to work and especially enjoy working with young tax and corporate lawyers to help them develop the skills and insights that make a Wachtell Lipton lawyer so special. So I would say – more of the same!
Jodi Schwartz enjoys a fantastic reputation in the North American market and is adept on matters relating to cross-border M&A and spin-offs.
Jodi J Schwartz focuses on the tax aspects of corporate transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, spin-offs and financial instruments. Ms Schwartz has been the principal tax lawyer on numerous domestic and cross-border transactions in a wide range of industries. She was elected partner in 1990.
Ms Schwartz received her BS in economics magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1981, her MBA from the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton School) in 1984, her JD magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1984 and her LLM in taxation from the New York University Law School in 1987.
Ms Schwartz is recognised as one of the world's leading lawyers in the field of taxation, including being selected by Chambers Global Guide to the World’s Leading Lawyers, Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, Who’s Who Legal and as a tax expert by Euromoney Institutional Investor Expert Guides. In addition, she is a member of the executive committee and past chair of the tax section of the New York State Bar Association and also is a member of the American College of Tax Counsel.
Ms Schwartz serves on the board of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services, the Jewish Community Project of Lower Manhattan and serves on the board of overseers of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Ms Schwartz lives in Manhattan with her husband, son and daughter.