Saturday, October 29, 2005
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.]
Keith Blair (Baltimore)
- B.S. 1982, Andrews
- J.D. 1993, Brooklyn
Law is a second career for me. I was a systems programmer for the eight years after I graduated from college. I always had the bug to go to law school, and finally decided that I either was going to go then or not go at all. I went to Brooklyn Law School and didn't really have a clue on what type of law I wanted practice. I had a vague notion that I wanted to litigate, so I took the year-long Federal Litigation Clinic at Brooklyn. The experience in that clinic, which was directed by Professor Minna Kotkin, convinced me that litigation was for me. During the year that I was in the clinic I also took the basic income tax class. To this day I have no idea why I took the class as one thing that I knew was that I did not plan on practicing in the tax field.
After graduating Brooklyn, I had a two year stint at the Pro Se Clerk's office in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Following that, I went to the Department of Justice to work in the Antitrust Division. It quickly became apparent to me that although I enjoyed the intellectual challenges that antitrust law presented, the actual practice of antitrust law was not for me. I wanted to litigate. Two years after joining the Antitrust Division, I found myself interviewing with the Tax Division of the Justice Department. I was a little leery because I really didn't know what the Tax Division did, but someone told me I should apply because the Tax Division actually litigated. I distinctly remember during one of my interviews stating that I knew no tax law, and being told that that was not important. So, I ended up moving to the Tax Division.
That was one of the best career decisions I ever made. I found that I actually enjoyed tax controversy work (except for the tax protesters). And, there were a lot of new issues that arose during my time in the Tax Division. Congress was beating up on the IRS at the time, and the 1998 amendments to the Code resulted. Tax collection changed as a result, and I was able to be a part of some of the litigation that helped sort out how the new procedures were to work.
Although I love litigation, I started to get the teaching bug about four years ago. I took an adjunct position at Washington College of Law teaching research and writing to get my feet wet. In the fall of 2004 I heard about a position directing the Tax Clinic at the University of Baltimore School of Law. I jumped at the chance to change sides and use the knowledge learned representing the IRS to train students and help taxpayers who definitely need it. I've been in the position about four months, and really enjoy it. I especially enjoy the supervision sessions with my students when we strategize on how to solve their client's problems. I'm starting to see tangible results both in the growth in the students and cases. I have a particular interest in the collection due process procedures (which arose out of the 1998 amendments), and will be adding my thoughts to the scholarship that has already been written about CDP.
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.