TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Maule: Structuring the Introduction to Taxation of Business Entities Course

YodaJim Maule (Villanova) has a well-deserved reputation as the Yodaof tax teachers, as he generously shares his insights with both tax faculty (via email discussion groups, exam banks, and PowerPoint banks) and tax students (via CALI exercises).  He previously shared on his wonderful tax blog:

Jim's latest contribution is a series of twenty posts on structuring the Introduction to Taxation of Business Entities course.  From his opening post (July 2, 2010):

Because only so much can be cut, and students need to be prepared to walk into the practice world with substantive tax exposure, analytical skills, and problem-solving abilities that match their counterparts graduating from law schools with two 3-credit courses, a good argument can be made, and has been made, that this 3-credit course is actually a 4-credit course. It is. It also has the reputation of being the most difficult course in the J.D. curriculum. It very well may be. But this area of taxation may very well be one of the most difficult areas of law practice. Despite some griping at the outset, by the end of the semester, almost all of the students – who are self-selected tax and business types and thus a very different group from those who are in the basic tax courses “because it’s on the bar exam” – conclude that despite the requisite diligence, they have learned far more than they expected and have acquired a good sense of what awaits them when they reach the practice world.

From his concluding post (Aug. 16, 2010):

When students leave the course, assuming they have been diligent and have learned what I intend for them to learn, they are capable not only of doing simple corporate and partnership tax returns but also of understanding basic planning questions, figuring out how to find answers to more advanced questions, and taking with them a solid foundation for more tax courses. It’s a difficult area of taxation, thanks to the Congress, it’s essential that students get a firm grip on the material, and it has always been my principal goal to put them in a position to succeed in practice even though that requires demanding assignments, intense concentration, and voluminous coverage.

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But what about the 80-90 percent of basic tax students who won't be tax practitioners--and may not be practitioners, at all?

I think a basic tax course needs to focus on teaching skills--statutory interpretation, the balancing of legal and business goals, the interplay of law and policy--that apply to all students whether or not they specialize.

Perhaps we are not really disagreeing here.

Posted by: Michael A. Livingston | Aug 25, 2010 12:07:36 PM