Saturday, August 18, 2007
Brian Galle (Florida State)
- A.B. 1995, Harvard
- J.D. 2001, Columbia
- LL.M. (Tax) 2006, Georgetown
I started out wanting to be a professional writer. But then, I was eight; to me, a “starving writer” was what you were when you had to finish your homework before you could have dessert. By sixteen, I was hip to finances, and I had a plan: be a lawyer, make the big bucks, retire young. Write full-time by fifty.
In college and shortly thereafter, I discovered two very important things. First, that arguing is more fun than writing (this is the obligatory debate-team shout-out). More importantly, that it was very, very unlikely that any novel I wrote would make any difference to social justice, or, for that matter, any difference to anyone who needed anything other than a way to pass their time on the beach or the bus.
So, I went to law school (Columbia). The new plan was: get government job. Get lots of litigation experience quickly. If government feels insufficiently worthy, find or start a public-interest legal organization (the National Housing Law Project, where I summered, seemed a reasonable possibility. By the way, you can visit them on-line, and give them the money they deserve). I wanted white-collar prosecution work, but didn’t enjoy my time in Antitrust (all grand jury, no trials). So the first semester of my third year I took Dave Schizer’s tax course, hoping it might lead me to a job in the DOJ Tax Division.
Fast forward two years. By good fortune, there was a rare opening in DOJ at the Criminal Appeals and Tax Enforcement Policy Section of the Tax Division just as I was applying. It was, in many ways, the perfect job. Writing, policy, arguing. A little bit of Supreme Court practice. No discovery, no document review. Near-total autonomy 99% of the time. Great colleagues, wonderful leadership all the way to the top of the Tax Division.
But then there were the post-it notes. They’d begun gathering in my 3L summer at the Office of Legal Counsel, and I moved them from job to job. I kept them in the top center drawer. Pretty soon the center drawer was full, and they started covering the top right and left drawers, too. Anytime I had an idea, an idea that whatever was on top of the desk raised, but, oh, the existing law didn’t really get it *right* -- I wrote a post-it. I found myself spending more time thinking about what was inside the desk than what was on top of it.
Finally, it dawned on me: “Hey, if somebody will pay me to write about these post-its, I *can* be a professional writer, and maybe do a little bit of public service, too.” But my interests at the Tax Division had gotten mostly to be in tax and public finance, and I, frankly, just didn’t know enough about either field to be a really good scholar. So I got an LLM in Tax at Georgetown, which fortuitously was (1) three blocks away, and (2) willing to pay my tuition. I’m sure other LLM programs are also excellent, but it’s hard to think of a better environment for a future tax academic. If there’s not enough tax happenings at the law school for you (unlikely), there’s Brookings, CBPP, AEI, and (for gluttons for punishment) those folks under the big white dome.
The next January I again lucked into a great job. In the middle of callbacks at other schools, I spotted an e-mail on the TaxProf email listserv (by this remarkably prolific Joseph Dodge fellow) calling for applications for a tax professor at FSU, which hadn’t deigned to interview me in D.C. The rest is history. While maybe no one would complain if it there were less humidity or more non-stop flights, my colleagues (especially my tax colleagues) are remarkable. I’m not sure why they changed their minds about me, but I’m glad they did. Now if only they could help me to figure out what to do with all these darned post-its...
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