TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Tax Prof Profile, Father's Day Edition: Douglas A. Kahn

On this Father's day weekend, we are delighted to bring you the first of our two-part profile of the Kahn father-son tax prof tandem.  Doug Kahn first shares his Father's Day thoughts about raising a tax prof son:


I was delighted when my son, Jeff, first told me that he wanted to go to law school, and then later when he decided to specialize in tax and to teach at a law school. It was satisfying to know that, after having observed me for some years, he discovered that my work was the kind of profession he would enjoy. But, Jeff's decisions also created anxiety for both of us. I was fearful that if his performance in law school fell below the standard that he might think I expected of him, he would consider himself a failure. Indeed, Jeff did harbor that concern; and it put a heavy pressure on him for which no amount of assurances on my part could alleviate. I am sure that he would agree, however, that the benefits that we derived from his choices far outweighed the additional anxiety that we suffered. Many parents find that when their children reach adulthood, they become more than relatives of each other; they become good friends who enjoy each other's company as peers. To have my son engaged in the same profession adds a huge dimension to our relationship. We are not only good friends, we are colleagues and collaborators who often discuss those issues that are at the core of our professional lives. Jeff and I exchange e-mails and chats, and much of that exchange involves tax issues that arise in our reading or class preparation. I hope that I have been of some help to Jeff, but I am certain that he has been of great help to me, not only in our collaborations, but also in our ordinary discussions. I believe that we are much closer to each other because of our having a professional relationship so that we communicate in a common language.

Spotlight_2 Douglas A. Kahn (Michigan)

      • B.A. 1955, North Carolina
      • J.D. 1958, George Washington



My brother, Edwin, is 16 years older than I and has been like a father to me, especially since our father died when I was 8. Ed was a tax lawyer and a name partner at what was then called Arent, Fox, Kintner, Plotkin & Kahn in D.C. Ed was a model for me of what a good lawyer should be.

My tax courses at GW were not especially interesting, and so I did not plan originally to go into tax. I began law school in night class and subsequently switched to day school. By going summers, I finished the required hours in two years. But, because of having started in night school for the first two terms, I was 1/20 of a residence unit short of graduating and had to take a 2-hour course at night to graduate. That term, I worked at Covington & Burling. I discovered at Covington that I thoroughly enjoyed my tax assignments and that led to my eventually specializing in tax. The enjoyment I found in analyzing statutes and regulations and applying them to specific circumstances led me to adopt a problem method for teaching tax when I became a professor.While at Covington, I worked with Donald Hiss, who was a magnificent lawyer and from whom I learned a lot.

After graduation, I went to work for the Department of Justice in the appellate sections first of the Civil Division and later of the Tax Division. I learned a great deal about writing and advocacy skills from Alan Rosenthal, who was then a senior lawyer at the Civil Division, After four years at Justice, I joined a small law firm in D.C. where, for two and one-half years, I specialized in taxation and estate planning. In 1964, I joined the faculty of the University of Michigan Law School where I have been ever since. I teach almost exclusively in the tax area, but I have also taught Estate Planning and Legal Process. Teaching at Michigan has been a joy. The students are superb, and I have been blessed with extraordinary colleagues. I sincerely believe that there is nothing that I could have done in my life that I would have enjoyed as much as I have loved teaching law. L. Hart Wright and Al Polasky taught tax when I arrived here, and were helpful to my development. My closest friends have been colleagues such as J. J. White, Yale Kamisar, Tom Kauper, and Larry Waggoner, and former students such as Terry Perris, who is a tax partner at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, Trish White, who is the Dean at Arizona State law School, and Dennis Ross, who is the General Counsel at Ford. Unfortunately, some of my close friends and former colleagues, Vince Blasi, Gerry Rosberg, and Michael Rosenzweig, left Michigan for other pastures, and I do miss them.

My wife, Mary, was a student of mine, and she practiced tax law for some years before retiring. Our son, Jeffrey, became a tax lawyer, and now is an Associate Professor at Santa Clara Law School where he teaches taxation and corporations. It was one of the great thrills of my life to co-author an article with my son, and to have him join me as the co-author of the most recent edition of a book on federal income taxation. Taxation must be in my family’s blood; my brother, my wife, my son, and my daughter-in-law were all tax lawyers. I especially enjoy the analytical aspects of law, and that aspect is prominent in the tax field. It is the joy of analysis and of solving puzzles that makes tax such a fascinating topic to me. My principal hobby is chess, and I think that the same type of thinking that chess involves is at the core of tax practice too. I also like to play bridge and enjoy foreign travel. I am a keen spectator of sports, and a rabid fan of University of Michigan football, basketball and hockey teams. I live and die with the successes and failures of the Michigan football team.

I look back at my life now and realize how extraordinarily fortunate I have been. I have loved my career and still find a thrill from the classroom. Many people become teachers because of their desire to do research and writing and regard their teaching duties as secondary. While I enjoy research and writing (even though it is hard work), it is the teaching of students that is my primary love. I not only enjoy the teaching of classes but also the friendships that I formed with some of my students. I take pride and pleasure in their achievements and whatever little role I may have had in helping them. All in all, it has been a great life.

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.

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