TaxProf Blog

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

Friday, September 23, 2016

28 Florida Graduate Tax Alumni Academics Respond To Robert Rhee's Critique Of The Program

Florida Logo (GIF)Florida Graduate Tax Program Alumni Academics Letter:

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

We the undersigned graduates of the UF Tax Program have read the various blog posts and other public information that have emerged regarding the Tax Program at the University of Florida Frederic G. Levin College of Law. As alumni in academia, we write to express gratitude to Tax Program faculty, appreciation for its in-residence structure, and stress the importance of preserving (and even enhancing) one of the truly great programs in legal education. The UF Tax Program represents much of what is good in legal education.

We entered the UF Tax Program from diverse backgrounds and locations. We represent a diverse cross section of the population. Though we hold faculty and administrative positions at numerous institutions, our common bond is that we all earned law degrees that included courses taught by UF Tax Program Faculty. We proudly represent several generations of alumni of the UF Tax Program.

Prior to entering the legal academy, we held positions in government and private practice that cover a broad swath of the tax practice universe, and many of us continue to serve as experts and consultants in various capacities and venues. We serve in numerous professional organizations and frequently speak on tax topics at academic and professional programs. Our former students now practice tax law across an impressively diverse spectrum of government agencies, firms, practices, and geography. Many of our students have attended the UF Tax Program and report back positive experiences and outcomes. Some of our students have gone into teaching. Our articles, books, and other materials appear in a broad range of publications.

We attribute our professional accomplishments, in large part, to the UF Tax Program. The Tax Program’s faculty provided us with the technical knowledge and skills that enabled us to successfully pursue careers in tax law. Studying with them exposed us to ideas and analytical techniques that we value. We also recognize that the faculty worked to serve our interests and helped us gain a foothold in the tax profession. The qualitative aspects of their influence on our lives will not appear in most quantitative assessments of their accomplishments and contributions to the profession. But we attest that their influence is real and profound.

We found the in-residence structure of the Tax LL.M. to provide numerous, invaluable benefits. The immersion in tax law as part of a coherent student body of similarly aspiring tax professionals, coupled with the opportunity to regularly engage in face-to-face discourse with a dedicated faculty of experts, helped shape both our professional and personal identities. As with most law school programs around the country, however, the faculty will undoubtedly continue to look closely at how best to pursue the program’s objectives and to serve the evolving needs of its student body.

Perhaps that endeavor will lead to the incorporation of online content or a part-time pathway through the program, but in any event, the leaders at UF (and at all law schools) should strive to acknowledge and preserve the noted positives of in-residence study as they adapt to the changing market for the delivery of legal education. We were surprised by the recent negative public discourse about the UF Tax Program.

Professor Marty McMahon, in his capacity as the director of the Graduate Tax Program, has issued a statement to the tax professor community assuring faculty who refer their students to the UF Tax Program that the Program is here to stay. We applaud that action. The UF Tax program is a jewel in UF Law’s crown. The administration must act definitively to preserve and enhance the Tax Program’s status and influence.

The UF Tax Program serves as the foundation for many tax scholars and academic leaders scattered across this nation and beyond. Clearly the Tax Program has had a profound influence on this profession, and we look forward to its future.

Sincerely,

Gabriel Aitsebaomo (LL.M. 1996)
Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Thurgood Marshall School of Law

Bradley T. Borden (J.D. 1999, LL.M. 2000)
Professor of Law
Brooklyn Law School

Felicia L. Branch (LL.M. 1997)
Assistant Professor of Law
North Carolina Central University School of Law

David A. Brennen (J.D. 1991, LL.M. 1994)
Dean and Professor of Law
University of Kentucky College of Law

Donna Raye Davis (LL.M. 1988)
Associate Professor of Law
The University of Mississippi School of Law

James M. Delaney (LL.M. 1997)
Professor of Law & Associate Dean of Academic Affairs
University of Wyoming, College of Law

Diane Lourdes Dick (J.D. 2005, LL.M. 2011)
Associate Professor of Law
Seattle University School of Law

John K. Eason (LL.M. 1999)
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law
Seattle University School of Law

Gregory L. Germain (LL.M. 2001)
Professor of Law
Syracuse University College of Law

Richard Gershon (LL.M. 1983)
Professor of Law
The University of Mississippi School of Law

Monica Gianni (LL.M. 1995)
Assistant Professor
Nazarian College of Business and Economics
California State University, Northridge

Kristin Gutting (LL.M. 2001)
Associate Professor of Law
Charleston School of Law

Christopher H. Hanna (J.D. 1988)
Alan D. Feld Endowed Professor of Law
Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor
SMU Dedman School of Law

Wilton B. Hyman (LL.M. 1993)
Professor of Law
New England Law | Boston

Bruce R. Jacob (LL.M. 1995)
Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law
Stetson University College of Law

Darryll K. Jones (J.D. 1986, LL.M. 1994)
Professor of Law
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University College of Law

Joni D. Larson (LL.M. 1990)
Professor of Law
Indiana Tech Law School

Gary M. Lucas, Jr. (LL.M. 2006)
Professor of Law
Texas A&M University School of Law

Eric A. Lustig (LL.M. 1988)
Professor of Law and Director of Center for Business Law
New England Law | Boston

Jeffrey A. Maine (LL.M. 1994)
Maine Law Foundation Professor of Law
University of Maine School of Law

Bruce A. McGovern (LL.M. 1996)
Vice President, Assoc. Dean for Academic Administration and Professor of Law
Houston College of Law

John A. Miller (LL.M. 1987)
Weldon Schimke Professor of Law & Dean Emeritus
University of Idaho College of Law

Reginald Mombrun (LL.M. 1989)
Professor of Law and Principal Investigator (LITC)
North Carolina Central University School of Law

Joy Sabino Mullane (J.D. 1999, LL.M. 2003)
Professor of Law
Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law

Me Marwah Rizqy (LL.M. 2011, S.J.D. 2014)
Professeure adjointe au département de Fiscalité
Faculté d'administration
Université de Sherbrooke

Kerry A. Ryan (LL.M. 2002)
Associate Professor of Law
Saint Louis University School of Law

Kent D. Schenkel (LL.M. 1988)
Professor of Law
New England Law | Boston

Kevin M. Yamamoto (LL.M. 1995)
Professor of Law
Houston College of Law

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/09/28-florida-graduate-tax-alumni-academics-respond-to-robert-rhees-critique-of-the-program.html

Legal Education, Tax | Permalink

Comments

I was asked to sign this letter, but I have a perfect record of not signing group letters and I’d hate to upset that, slippery slope and all. Nevertheless, I agree with the spirit of the letter and wanted to emphasize a point about student outcomes. I am a JD (1996) and LLM (1998) graduate, and I taught at UF Law (both JD and LLM courses) as a visiting professor for two academic years (2000-2001 & 2006-2006). I have taught at FSU, UF’s main competition for law students and also a significant source of LLM applicants, and at two other law schools in the southeast that have sent students to the LLM program.
From what I can tell, based on these experiences, the LLM program does very well by its students. I personally experienced the rigorous training in tax law, and it was by far the best educational experience in my life (though I acknowledge this could be saying more about me than about the program). I left the program with multiple job offers from excellent Big Law firms that were not at all interested in me when I graduated from the UF JD program only two years earlier. When I started at the law firm, I was able to hit the ground running because of the intensive grounding in tax law the program gave me. I have since sent a number of my own JD students to the tax program and the ones that keep in touch with me tell me that they enjoyed the program and left with employment outcomes that were far better than the opportunities they had before they started the program. This is all anecdotal of course, and I agree that better data collection is imperative, but I truly believe that the data would be consistent with what I have heard.

Posted by: Gregg Polsky | Sep 23, 2016 8:23:38 AM

Like Gregg, I also agree with the spirit of this letter. I can only speak to the specifics of the tax program from when I attended twelve years ago, but I found the residence component to be invaluable, despite the fact that I enrolled after three years of practice and thus had to leave a job at a large law firm for a year to attend. In addition to acquiring significant technical knowledge, I also was able to work first-hand with a faculty that clearly cared about the professional development of its students and that was committed to spending considerable amounts of time outside of the classroom in helping students achieve their goals. In addition, I made friendships with other students in the program that I continue to cherish years later. When I attended, the program was able to keep direct costs incredibly low for its students who either worked as a research assistant for a faculty member or who worked on the Florida Tax Review. I was fortunate to be able to work with Professor David Richardson, which I consider to be one of the most critical points of formation in my career. As a research assistant, I assumed my primary interaction with David would be to assist him on his current writing projects, which, as expected, I did. What I did not anticipate, however, was the considerable amount of time David would spend with me over the course of the year giving me feedback and advice on my own work. David would spend hours going through my writing line-by-line suggesting areas of improvement. In addition, he was very eager to discuss my career goals and personally call potential employers as well as make sure I got to know other members of the faculty as well. This experience is probably the single-biggest reason why I eventually entered academia, and I try to model my own approach to teaching after what I experienced in the tax program. Although David retired several years ago, from talking to my own students who have attended the program, I have no doubt that today’s students continue to have the same type of positive experiences in the program.

While much of the technical instruction in the program could (and, for some students who could not attend the program in residence without considerable personal or financial sacrifice, perhaps should) be imparted through online instruction, I hope that the program continues to maintain a strong emphasis on having students in residence. I believe in the value of online education and believe that it has a positive role to play in reducing costs and expanding access for students. I have myself taught tax classes online. However, there are some things that simply cannot be replicated in online instruction, and I am hopeful that future generations of UF tax students will get to experience the same benefits from the residential program that I did.

Posted by: Ted Afield | Sep 24, 2016 4:57:58 AM