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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Spotlight_1_1Arthur Cockfield (Queen's University)

        • H.B.A. 1990, University of Western Ontario Richard Ivey School of Business
        • LL.B. 1993, Queen’s University Faculty of Law
        • J.S.M. 1996, Stanford
        • J.S.D. 1998, Stanford

   

Cockfield Now in my eighth year of law teaching, I still have to occasionally pinch myself to make sure that I’m not dreaming. Like many others, it is hard for me to imagine a better job than working as a law professor. It is truly a privilege to be able to teach and write for a living (not to mention padding around my house in my pajamas this summer’s day for most of the morning, but I digress …).

How did I get to be a tax prof? My interest in tax began during my undergraduate degree where I majored in finance at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario; I was lucky to have been taught tax and finance courses by the late Sam Martin, a truly inspiring teacher. Having wanted to work as a lawyer since a young kid (hokey but true!), I then went off to study law at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario and, again, was fortunate to have strong tax teachers and researchers, including the late Alex Easson.

As a law student, I began to develop an academic interest in the law, considered becoming a prof one day, but worried that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. So off I went to a downtown Toronto firm (Goodmans LLP) for a couple of years of practice, then graduate law studies at Stanford where I was extremely lucky (third time’s the charm) to take tax courses taught by Barbara Fried and Joe Bankman, along with dissertation research support from Tom Heller and Jack McNulty of Boalt Hall. Our first son, Arthur, was born during this time and I was able to take care of him for a couple of years while my spouse Mariah worked; our days were filled with Jamba Juice and trips to the Half Moon Bay beach.

My first appointment as an Assistant Professor was at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego in 1998. I taught there for three years, surrounded by amazing colleagues and wonderful weather. In 2001, I took a position back at Queen’s where I was appointed as a Queen’s National Scholar, and have been there ever since. I’ve been the Associate Dean for the past couple of years and am looking forward to returning to full-time teaching and writing when my sentence ends in another year.

In terms of tax teaching, I have tried to develop a "narrative law teaching" method for most of my classes. I’ve experimented with different approaches, but the main approach is to create a small novel comprised of say eight chapters that tells the story of a lawyer struggling with a particular dramatic issue; at the end of each chapter, I set out tax problems that the students work on at home, and which we take up during the next class. The students seem to be receptive to this approach, and this summer I’m working on a "novel" for a new course I’m scheduled to teach in the fall: Accounting for Lawyers. In addition to teaching Federal Income Tax, Taxation of Business Entities, and International Tax (in both Canadian and U.S. tax law), I’ve also taught non-tax courses such as Contracts, Cyberlaw, E-commerce Law, Corporations, and Corporate Finance.

With respect to scholarship, I’ve focused my research on issues surrounding the taxation of e-commerce, trying to understand how technology change challenges traditional tax rules. In another line of research, I’ve tried to discern an appropriate tax policy response for Canada, the United States, and Mexico under regional economic integration promoted by NAFTA. In addition, I’ve done some research in the area of privacy law and law and technology theory. Some of these works are set out in my SSRN author page. My most recent SSRN posting is Purism versus Contextualism in International Tax Law Analysis: How Traditional Analysis Fails Developing Countries. I argue that much international tax law scholarship (including—gulp—my own) has been overly influenced by international tax economics instead of taking into account the broader context such as the political dynamics that shape international tax reform efforts.

Since becoming a prof, I’ve authored or edited the following books:

Hobbies include watching too many cheesy movies (and occasional good ones), playing tennis, and coaching kids’ soccer. Yet another great aspect about working as a law prof is the flexibility that it provides so that I can help raise our three children, Arthur, Jack, and William.

Each Saturday, TaxProf Blog shines the spotlight on one of the 700+ tax professors in America's law schools or on one of our international tax colleagues. 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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