Saturday, December 4, 2004
The UCLA School of Law made one of the largest leaps in the latest US News survey of tax programs, moving from #25 in 2002 to #6 in 2004. In large part, this move was fueled by the unprecedented hiring of three tax professors in 2003, joining the four tax professors already on the faculty to form one of the strongest tax faculties in the country.
The resurgence of UCLA’s tax program is evident in its many activities planned for this year, including its Tax Policy and Public Finance Colloquium this Spring, the UCLA Law Review's Symposium on Rethinking Redistribution: Tax Policy in an Era of Rising Inequality in January, UCLA’s Institute on Tax Aspects of Mergers and Acquisitions in May, and the hosting of a Conference on Historical Perspectives on Tax Law & Policy in July. Moreover, because of the combination of an expanded tax faculty and substantial student interest, the UCLA Program in Business Law and Policy will offer a separate tax track in its business law concentration starting next year.
In a seven-part series, TaxProf Blog will spotlight the tax professors who make up the heart of UCLA’s tax program.
Michael Asimow is the senior member of the UCLA tax faculty, having taught at the law school since January 1967. After receiving his law degree from UC-Berkeley in 1964, he practiced tax law at Irell & Manella in Los Angeles. When he joined the UCLA faculty at the ripe old age of 28, his primary mentors were Ralph Rice, who Michael describes as “a famous curmudgeon but very helpful to a young colleague,” and Herb Schwartz.
While he has taught many of the tax courses in his career, in recent years Michael has taught Introduction to Federal Income Tax as well as Contracts, Administrative Law, and Law and Popular Culture. He is one of the most beloved professors at UCLA, having received both the University's Distinguished Teaching Award and the School of Law's Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching. Michael is also an active participant in both the UCLA Tax Policy and Public Finance Colloquium and in the Southern California Tax Policy Group.
Michael was a pioneer in developing scholarship that combined the fields of tax and administrative law. He co-authored the leading textbook on administrative law, State and Federal Administrative Law (1998), as well as California Administrative Law (2002), and he has authored numerous articles examining the administrative law features of taxation.
Michael keeps his hand in the tax field, writing and updating tax chapters for treatises on family law and real estate transactions and he wrote and continues to update the Gilbert’s Summary of Income Tax. More recently, though, Michael has become fascinated with portrayals of lawyers in the media. He co-authored Reel Justice: The Courtroom Goes to the Movies (1996), a book about the great courtroom movies of the past and present, and co-wrote Law and Popular Culture: A Course Book (2004). In addition, he has published articles on lawyers and law firms in the movies. As with administrative law, he has found a way to combine tax law with this interest in law and popular culture. Earlier this year, for example, he wrote a review of the role of the tax lawyer as a therapist in the film “Intimate Strangers.” In explaining why the writer chose to have the troubled patient mistake a tax lawyer for her therapist, Michael stated “[i]t's been said of tax lawyers that they are good with numbers but don't have enough personality to become accountants. And so Leconte must have made William a tax lawyer because it was very dorkiest profession he could think of.”
Unlike the character in Intimate Strangers, who Michael described as “pathetically repressed” in part because he had “nothing going on in his life except his tax practice, nothing at all,” Michael has been extremely active in the larger community. He founded and directs the Sunday Free Legal Clinic, a group of volunteer lawyers and students who provide legal services at the A.M.E. Church in South Central Los Angeles. In 1994, he received the Fredric P. Sutherland Award recognizing public service contributions by a faculty member.
Each Saturday, TaxProf Blog shines the spotlight on one of the 700+ tax professors in America's law schools. We hope to help bring the many individual stories of scholarly achievements, teaching innovations, public service, and career moves within the tax professorate to the attention of the broader tax community. Please email me suggestions for future Tax Prof Profiles. For prior Tax Prof Profiles, see here.