This week's Tax Prof Spotlight continues a series of profiles of folks starting their careers this fall as law school tax professors. I hope the profiles will help introduce our newest colleagues to the tax community.
Lisa Milot (Georgia)
- B.A. 1992, New College of Florida
- M.A. 1998, NYU
- J.D. 2001, Virginia
I’ve never been able to file a 1040-EZ. And that, in short, is how I ended up fascinated by tax law.
It wasn’t why I went to law school – I was originally a graduate student in social anthropology, interested in cultural understandings of human bodies. Many of my questions had legal components (e.g., drug use and international sport, and new reproductive technologies) and I had always considered going to law school, so I left grad school after three years.
At law school, I started from the premise that I didn’t want to litigate. I quickly learned that the primary counter to litigation was corporate law, and decided that that was what I would do. I filled the gaps in the corporate law curriculum with tax classes, in the hope of understanding what all those incredibly long and complex forms I’d been filing all those years meant. I liked – finally! – learning why claiming my ex-husband as a dependent the year we were got divorced didn’t work (I had previously lost that battle with the IRS), understanding the “grossing up” formula had been the basis of my compensation rate at some of my prior jobs, and working through the proper reporting of income that spans multiple jurisdictions.
After a year or so of corporate law practice, I started to look around to see what might be a better fit for me. My timing was perfect – Ivins, Phillips & Barker, a tax boutique in Washington, D.C., was looking for a junior associate for its estate planning practice. Once there, I had the opportunity to work with absolutely fantastic tax attorneys in a variety of specialties (IP&B believes firmly in its attorneys being tax lawyers first, then specialists second, and so mandates a two-year rotation for all incoming associates), exposing me to far more of the tax world than I had expected. The unfortunate side of that, perhaps (for them, not for me), is that it got me thinking about tax law from a more intellectual perspective, rather than just focusing on my assignments. I realized that I wanted the opportunity to explore my academic interests on a full-time basis.
This summer, then, I transitioned to teaching property, tax (specifically, the taxation of non-profits), and trusts & estates at the University of Georgia. So far teaching has proven both far easier (because it feels right) and far harder (because it feels important) for me than I expected. My research interests are our relationships to those things closest to us – our bodies, our families and our possessions – as well as related areas that are in transition – for example, the legal status of pets and dynasty trusts. Tax law is a great overlay to both reflect how we think about these things, and to shape our understandings further.
Each Saturday, TaxProf Blog shines the spotlight on one of the 700+ tax professors in America's law schools or on one of our international tax colleagues. 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.