Paul L. Caron

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Spotlight_1_1Jeffrey L. Kwall (Loyola-Chicago; Visiting at Northwestern)

        • B.A. 1977, Bucknell
        • M.B.A. 1981, Penn
        • J.D. 1981, Penn



Kwall_1 I never contemplated a teaching career. After working my way through college, I set my sights on becoming a corporate lawyer in a big Wall Street firm. But the twists and turns of life lead one in unexpected directions.

After spending the summer after my first year of law school at a Philadelphia megafirm, the security of knowing I had a good home if desired allowed me to try something very different during my second summer. I found a mid-size firm in Beverly Hills that had begun as a tax boutique and evolved into a thriving general business practice. What a summer that was! My eyes were opened to the joys of a transactional practice where you did the tax work and executed the transaction in an environment that was nothing short of spectacular. But having spent my entire life in Pennsylvania, I wasn’t ready to give up the changing seasons so I spent my third year of law school searching for that Beverly Hills practice in an eastern (relatively speaking) locale. That search took me to many cities, one of which was Chicago, a place that I had never before seen but instantly felt like home.

I practiced full-time for three years at a mid-size Chicago firm that, much like the Beverly Hills firm, had begun as a tax boutique. I worked under a brilliant mentor; a meticulous practitioner with the best judgment of any lawyer I have ever known. The firm did sophisticated tax work but, due to its size, rarely encountered the same issue twice. The focus in those days was on quality of work and I was afforded the luxury of taking the time needed to develop the expertise to handle each new matter. I spent weeks at a time with triangular mergers, tiered partnerships, cancellation of indebtedness, corporate penalty taxes, controlled foreign corporations, DISCs – unbelievable intellectual stimulation tempered by the nuts and bolts of actually executing transactions.

As luck would have it, a sudden opportunity arose in the spring of 1984 to join the full-time faculty at Loyola, Chicago and, after much soul searching, I decided to take it. Looking back, it was the best decision I made in my life (I should say the second-best decision, in case my wife happens to read this). To hedge my bets, I retained an of-counsel relationship with my old firm for more than 20 years during which time I continued to reap the benefits of real world practice.

Teaching all these years at Loyola has been a great pleasure, in large part due to my tax colleagues Anne-Marie Rhodes and Christian Johnson, outstanding teachers who remain as enthusiastic and excited about tax as ever and whom I am privileged to regard as my friends. The three of us worked for years as a team, with the encouragement and support of our former Dean Nina Appel, to develop a J.D. tax curriculum with great depth that students flock to in increasing numbers. In recent years, we have enjoyed enrollments of 70-80 in Corporate & Partnership Tax, 30-40 in Advanced Corporate Tax and 50-60 in Estate & Gift Tax. In each year, we have conferred Tax Certificates on 25-30 graduating J.D.s who complete five specified tax courses while satisfying a stringent GPA requirement.

I have followed a broad research agenda over the years, focusing on corporate tax reform as well as pervasive common-law issues (most recently, the open-transaction doctrine and the step-transaction doctrine). My greatest satisfaction, however, stems from the consolidated corporate and partnership tax casebook that I began writing after the repeal of General Utilities rule, the third edition of which was published by Foundation Press last year. Developing a book to teach corporate and partnership tax on a comparative basis enabled me to draw on my teaching, writing and practice experiences over the years and truly represents who I am as a professional. I have enjoyed adapting the book over the past decade to meet the constantly changing business tax landscape while attempting to meet the challenge of maintaining a cohesive work as the tax law becomes increasingly complicated and unprincipled.

In recent years, I have explored interests outside the tax area – teaching the first-year course in real property from a planning perspective and serving as a co-author on a leading property casebook. I have also developed a law school course in financial planning and have written in that field. One of the challenges I hope to respond to in the near future is the critical need for augmenting the financial sophistication of professionals in all disciplines.

I am thoroughly enjoying my visit at Northwestern Law School this semester. The Northwestern tax faculty has been warm and welcoming and the weeks have flown. It has been refreshing to be a part of Northwestern’s fine tax program.

Finally, I am extremely blessed with a wonderful wife of 25 years, Roberta (an accomplished intellectual property professor at DePaul Law School), and three beautiful daughters who have given me the greatest joys (along with some of the greatest challenges) of my life. I’ll save my philosophy on raising teenage daughters for another day.

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.

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