August 4, 2007
Heather M. Field (UC-Hastings)
- B.S. 1997, UCLA
- J.D. 2000, Harvard
I took an indirect road to tax law – when I started college, I wanted to be a chemistry professor. I majored in biochemistry at UCLA, and I planned to pursue a Ph.D. and teach chemistry at the college level. However, near the end of my college career, I realized that although I loved studying chemistry, I did not enjoy being in the laboratory. Since it is pretty hard to be a great research chemist without spending a lot of time in the lab, I was forced to rethink my plans, and I decided to go to law school.
There is not an obvious connection between chemistry and law, but my father went to law school after working as a chemical engineer, so my choice to go to law school did not seem particularly unusual to me. When I started Harvard Law School, I did not know what type of law I wanted to practice until I had the good fortune to take federal income tax with Louis Kaplow and corporate tax with Reuven Avi-Yonah. I liked all of my law school classes, but everything just clicked for me in my tax classes. I enjoyed studying the intricacies of the Code; tax law seemed like a big puzzle, and dare I say – fun.
After law school, I practiced at Latham & Watkins in Los Angeles, and it was there that I really got hooked on tax. I was incredibly fortunate to work with a superb group of lawyers, including Larry Stein, who was a wonderful mentor and teacher. I found that the more tax work I did, the more tax work I wanted to do. In my almost six years at Latham, I had the opportunity to work on the tax aspects of wide variety of transactions in areas including M&A, private equity, corporate finance and structured finance. My practice experience gave me quite an education about corporate and partnership tax, and now, my practice experience informs both my teaching and my research.
As much as I liked tax practice and my colleagues at Latham, I wanted to be in an academic setting where I could share the tax code and my experience in tax practice with students and where I could research and write about the things that are most interesting to me. In 2006, I joined the faculty at UC Hastings College of the Law. I feel so privileged to join an outstanding faculty, including an esteemed tax faculty (Dan Lathrope, Steve Lind, Steve Schwarz, Bill Hutton and Leo Martinez). Last year, I taught federal income tax, corporate and partnership tax, and a seminar on tax policy, and this coming year, I will also teach a course on advanced issues in corporate and partnership tax. My advanced issues class tracks closely with my research interests, which focus on the impact of tax law on business. [See Fiction, Form and Substance in Subchapter K -- Approaching Partnership Mergers, Divisions and Incorporations.]
It was with some regret that I abandoned my plans to teach chemistry, but now that have found my way back to academics as a tax prof, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.
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