TaxProf Blog

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

Sunday, December 31, 2006

WaPo: The Tax Man Behind D.C.'s Glitziest New Year's Parties

KarlanThe Sunday Washington Post has a wonderful article about Michael J. Karlan, tax lawyer turned party "bon vivant":

  • 1992:  J.D. Columbia
  • 1993:  LL.M. (Tax) NYU
  • 1993-95:  Law Clerk, U.S. Tax Court Judge Julian I. Jacobs
  • 1995-98:  Tax Associate, Covington & Burling
  • 1998-99:  Attorney, IRS Office of Chief Counsel
  • 1999-:  Attorney, Private Practice

Partying With Taxing Precision: For IRS Lawyer-Turned-Gala Planner, Success Is All About the Numbers, by Karin Brulliard:

Michael Karlan is throwing not one, but two glitzy New Year's bashes tonight. For 1,700 people.

At the French Embassy, guests in glittering gowns and dapper tuxes will sip bottomless glasses of champagne, take mini-lessons in French and dance the New Year in while mimes stroll.

Downtown at the Washington Plaza hotel, hundreds of young professionals will venture into "A Social Experience" -- a Madonna impersonator, massage seminars, speed-dating, a caricaturist....

Karlan, 38, is an expert party guy, founder of the social network Professionals in the City. He takes partying to an exponential degree, hosting about 1,000 mixers and social seminars each year. He has about 40 employees in six cities and an e-mail list 140,000 names long.

Who is this bon vivant? ... He is a former IRS tax lawyer who has published articles with such titles as "Cash or Deferred Arrangements, Matching Contributions, and Employee Contributions." Yes, Washington, the tax man is throwing your parties. And his key to a good party, of course, involves crunching numbers. He has partygoers rate every event's features and then ruthlessly axes all but the best-rated....

Karlan prefers subjects where there is one right answer, so he majored in accounting at the University of Colorado, where he had, "like, a 3.95, if you're curious," graduating as valedictorian. After that was law school at Columbia....

After graduating, he clerked at the U.S. Tax Court in Washington. He had no friends in the area, so he began organizing happy hours for the court crew. Then his bosses asked him to plan the office holiday party, to be held at the ever-festive tax court. He enjoyed being the planner.

Later came a job at a large District law firm. It was cutthroat, so he decided to boost his value by specializing in the Employment Retirement Income Security Act, a field he calls "very marketable." It meant he would work alone, on his own schedule, allowing him to go out at night....

Karlan quit the law firm for the IRS, but after a year of drafting tax regulations, he was antsy. "I thought of the idea of starting a sense of community," he said. His parties had shown him that young singles had busy lives and few outlets. In Washington, where people were often transplants, he sensed a widespread feeling of rootlessness. So in 1999, he started a law practice and on the side, he and a friend, Greg Bland, launched the D.C. Society of Young Professionals and began charging for museum outings, paintball trips, wine tastings and singles dinners....

Karlan's law practice has mostly fallen by the wayside. Pros in the City is making him a living, although he won't say how much.


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