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Saturday, September 9, 2006

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For over 30 years, the University of Florida Graduate Tax Program has been one of the nation's leading programs for the advanced study of tax law. Among the country's 30 graduate tax programs, Florida has by far the largest number of full-time faculty and is the only school to offer three advanced tax degrees:

 

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Graduate tax students assist in the publication of the Florida Tax Review, one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed tax journals in the country.  In this 12-part series, TaxProf Blog will profile the Florida Graduate Tax Faculty.

Friel_2With Aruba as my birthplace, I suppose I had an early sign I'd end up doing tax law, but it took me a good while to figure that out. I enjoyed the one tax class I took in law school, but what I really wanted to do when those three years were up was to see what was west of the Mississippi and work with the then new Vista Volunteer program. And I had some great experiences, working primarily with migrant farmworkers in Oregon. This was during the heyday of Cesar Chavez' movement in California no labor organizing, we couldn't do that and wouldn't have been good at it anyway but those were interesting times for farmworkers. A few more years in Legal Services followed, doing a range of individual casework and participating in some impact litigation. Tax was barely a dot on the horizon at this point.

I wound up deciding to stay on in Oregon -- if you've spent time in the summer or fall in the Willamette Valley and hiked in the Cascades, you'll understand why -- and entered private practice. It was over the next several years in practice that my interest in tax really developed and blossomed. Along the way, I became friendly with a number of folks on the Willamette Law School faculty, who seemed to clearly enjoy what they were doing, with plenty of students and former students of theirs who felt the same way.

I finally decided to go for an LL.M. and spent the next two years at NYU (a bit of the prodigal son returning only an hour, instead of three time zones, away from Connecticut based parents), first as a student and then as a teacher. I remember my pleasure in starting my LL.M. immediately following the passage of major tax legislation -- what great timing, I congratulated myself -- and my surprise at realizing the next year that there was more major tax legislation on the way. I knew, once I started, that I wanted to continue teaching, so I began to search for a permanent position and also began to put a lot of thought into preparing answers for the inevitable questions about a career path that led from practicing poverty law to teaching tax law.

My search for a permanent position was helped considerably when a tax position opened up at Willamette, in my hometown of Salem. It seemed to be Fate, writ large: no need to buy or sell a house, to change licenses, titles, voter registration, to find new doctors, banks, etc. Just head back home. So when Willamette offered, I accepted and returned for several happy years.

During those years, my colleague and co author, Martin Burke, had a good visit at Florida, and wound up introducing Florida and me to each other, and, well, 20 years later, here I still am, enjoying Florida and the Graduate Tax Program immensely. Florida has turned out to be a great place to live and raise a family -- no mountains, maybe, but swimming all year round and my colleagues, students and staff over the years have made the law school a great place to work. We have a group photo taken each spring of our graduating LL.M. class, with our tax faculty and staff, and the 30 or so photos which hang on our walls form a nice pictorial history of the Program. The students in each year's photo always look like they're glad to be here, and year after year, so do we.

And maybe, one of these days, I'll even decide to check out Aruba again and risk testing old memories against today's reality.

For prior Florida Graduate Tax Faculty Profiles, see:

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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