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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Tax Prof Profile, New Professor Edition: Joy Sabino Mullane

This week's Tax Prof Spotlight continues our series of profiles of folks starting their careers this fall as tax professors at American law schools. We hope the profiles will help introduce our newest colleagues to the tax community. [If you are, or know of someone who is, a beginning tax professor, please email me here to be included in the series.]

Spotlight_2Joy Sabino Mullane (Florida)

      • B.A. 1996, Florida
      • J.D. 1999, Florida
      • LL.M. (Taxation) 2003, Florida 

    

MullaneA tax lawyer was not the career I envisioned when I started law school. Early on, however, a good friend of the family (Gail Richmond (Nova)) set me on the right path by insisting that I take at least the basic income tax class offered at the University of Florida. Dreading the torture I anticipated, I waited until my last semester to enroll and I could not have been more surprised to discover that grappling with the Code and Regs to puzzle out tax problems was fun! I owe a lot of the success of my first tax experience to the great teaching of Martin McMahon, Jr. (Florida).

My interest in tax was put on hold as I had already accepted an offer to join the Atlanta office of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker. I practiced for two years with Paul Hasting's corporate finance group, primarily representing banks with regard to commercial lending transactions. As a lending lawyer, I never had to do research or write memos; I drafted documents. For some lawyers that situation would be perfect, but I found that I greatly missed analyzing legal issues and I increasingly felt unchallenged. I knew I needed to make a change, but wanted to make sure I made the right change. After giving the matter some thought, I decided to seek a federal appellate clerkship. I thought a clerkship would not only be a wonderful opportunity, but it would also allow me to survey the legal issues that arise in a wide variety of areas.

During my clerkship with Judge Susan H. Black of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, I was quickly reacquainted with the Code and I knew I had found my passion in the law. Tax law is fun, challenging, relevant, and (one of the things I love most about it) ever-changing. Once it became clear that tax was the perfect fit for me, it was equally evident that, having only taken one tax class, I would need to attend a graduate tax program if I wanted to practice as a tax lawyer. For me, there was only one choice: the University of Florida.

Returning to the University of Florida for the Graduate Tax Program after having clerked and worked for a couple years gave me a different perspective that significantly enhanced my educational experience. I was also privileged during my year in the program to work as a research assistant for Martin McMahon, Jr., who always took the time to sit and talk with me about whatever tax policy issues were piquing my interest.

Upon completion of the Graduate Tax Program, I worked for two years with a phenomenal group of attorneys at a tax boutique firm in Washington, D.C. At Davis & Harman, I was able to work on both technical tax matters and more policy-oriented matters with the firm's lobbying partners. I was thrilled to be working in D.C., particularly on retirement policy issues at a time when everyone in Washington was (and still is) focusing on those issues. I enjoyed my practice (and the people I worked with) tremendously, but ultimately knew that I wanted to be able to take the time to fully explore issues that interest me and use my own voice rather than a client-directed voice.

When the opportunity arose to return to the University of Florida once again, this time as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, I knew the time was right to pursue my academic interests. I first became interested in teaching during my second year of law school when I was part of an innovative program designed to assist first semester law students comprehend the legal concepts taught in their Contracts class. As part of the program, I held a class every other week for approximately 50 students to discuss those legal concepts in the context of analyzing teaching hypotheticals that I developed for the class. I thoroughly enjoyed working with students and knew I had been bitten by the teaching bug.

This fall I am teaching Corporate Taxation and Federal Tax Research. I am also on the tenure-track market, and working to finalize an article on the undermining of the deferred compensation regime. In the spring I look forward to teaching Income Taxation.

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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