This week's Tax Prof Spotlight continues our series of profiles of folks starting their careers as tax professors at American law schools. We hope the profiles will help introduce our newest colleagues to the tax community. [If you are, or know of someone who is, a beginning tax professor, please email me here to be included in the series.]
Unfortunately, I hadn’t been arrested for littering (ala Alice’s Restaurant), so was A1 and a prime candidate for Viet Nam. No thanks. So I gave them a third year and took a language exam, to see if I qualified to be an interpreter. I passed with flying colors because the test was in Esperanto, the 60’s proposed universal language, which we had studied in the linguistics classes I had taken at UCLA. My choices of languages were Russian, Chinese and Vietnamese, which was an easy choice (though in retrospect I wish I’d chosen Chinese, because I’m trying to learn it now and it is much harder at this age) because there were no Russian translators anywhere near Nam. I spent a year at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey and two years in a nature park (on the then East-West German border) as a spy (nothing like what you think), with my wife and new son, Ivan (despite my Jewish grandfather’s objections).
At the end of my tour of duty, I knew that anthropology was not a likely career choice, so I needed a trade. Law allowed me defer my choices further, so I took the LSAT in Frankfurt, Germany, but by the time the scores came back the only schools accepting applications were night schools. I decided to go to McGeorge because my brother was an intern in Sacramento. I planned to be an International Law lawyer until I discovered that there was no International Law, but I took a class in tax from Howard Engle and loved it. Taxation was applied anthropology in a capitalist society and fascinated me. Nonetheless, I needed a job. Because I had externed at the California Supreme Court and studied in Vienna in international law during my two law school summers, I had not chosen a firm (more importantly a firm hadn’t chosen me). Dean Schaber suggested I talk to O’Melveny and a few other firms. I decided to work at O’Melveny because there were more attorneys with beards at O’Melveny than at the other firms I had talked to and they made me an offer. (I’ve had a beard since puberty, except during the military.)
However, because I wasn’t sure I would get a job, I had applied for the LL.M. program at Harvard. Notwithstanding the offer to go to O’Melveny, when it accepted me I couldn’t resist going to Haavad. I took out more loans and my wife (pregnant with our daughter, Alia – my grandfather objected again for picking an Arab name), Ivan and I moved to a one-room hotel room, called married student housing, in Cambridge. The Harvard LL.M. program is not a tax program, but really a philosophy of law program; required classes included philosophy of law, ethics, legal history and the like. Nonetheless, I focused on tax law and policy. My graduate advisor/professor was Stanley Surrey, former Secretary for Tax Policy, and I took a fabulous Tax Policy course from Surrey and Musgrave.
Back to reality, I worked at O’Melveny initially in international tax, but also became an expert in tax-exempt bond financing. Consistent with my 60’s character, I also specialized in low-income housing and to this day work extensively with the credit. General tax was, at least in those days, an important part of the practice and I increasingly practiced in corporate and partnership tax. In the mid-90’s, one of our leading corporate tax partner’s was retiring, so it was important to broaden the firm’s corporate tax expertise. I decided I would learn more corporate tax in detail, if I taught a course in advanced corporate tax. I went back to my alma mater and Eric Zolt allowed me to teach a class in advanced mergers and acquisitions. I had more fun teaching the class than I could ever have imagined. Students are much more curious than clients. From UCLA, I moved to Loyola Law School downtown, where I created a class on Business Tax Planning. I have been teaching at least one class a year ever since. I was particularly delighted when Ellen Aprill asked me to teach Tax Policy in Loyola’s LL.M. program. Not surprisingly most of the questions raised in my 1973 class at Harvard still are unanswered today and even more are being asked. For example, at Harvard, I found it astounding how difficult it is to decide how to treat married couples under a graduated income tax system, and now we get to consider gay marriages (not recognized for federal tax purposes – it would raise the same issues if they were).
Anyway, the six years of teaching which I enjoyed immensely and the changes in the practice of tax law in private practice (another story), led me to consider teaching full time. After the initial shock of discovering I would take an over one digit cut in pay, I concluded I had made enough money, my children were grown, and it was time for a new and exciting adventure. Though the Dean wants me to change my first name, I’m to fond of it and am in fact considering changing my last name to Dean so I could become Dean Dean Dean (ala Catch 22). I plan to focus on teaching, though I will probably find adding my two cents to the policy debates which will never be resolved irresistible.
Each Saturday, TaxProf Blog shines the spotlight on one of the 700+ tax professors in America's law schools. 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.