Paul L. Caron

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tax Prof Nominees for Best Law Teachers in America

Following up on my prior post, Nominate a Tax Prof for Best Law Teachers in America:  Michael Hunter Schwartz (Washburn) has released the list of 150 nominees for inclusion in his forthcoming book, What the Best Law Teachers Do (Harvard University Press, 2011).  Here are the Tax Prof nominees:

Professor Abrams has the unique ability to make a class as dry as personal income tax one that is engaging and even entertaining. He has an expansive knowledge of background cases and their underlying issues and presents them in a way that really clarifies the cases at hand. Further, he seems to know about every case in existence as, when someone asks a question, he normally knows of a case where the taxpayer asked the same question. In all, his teaching style is unabashed, humorous, enthralling, and most importantly: effective.

Prof. Calfee has the best teaching style for tax law: he makes the students read the tax code ("out loud and with feeling!") and then teaches them to interpret, emphasizing the importance of punctuation, style, and format. In a world where placement of periods versus commas can make the difference, this is vital. Prof. Calfee also leads his classes into forays into the more interesting and esoteric concepts of tax law, where core concepts butt heads with practicality. The skills learned in Prof. Calfee's classes have long-lasting utility for his students who pursue tax careers. Most importantly, Prof. Calfee's enthusiasm for the subject matter is surpassed by his enthusiasm for the students. He always has time for students, be it to help with their particular tax code struggles, to advise on a job search, or to just listen. As law school communities grow larger and more corporate, that personal touch is invaluable.

Professor Crawford has won the "Outstanding Professor of the Year" award at Pace for the past three years. One student described her teaching by saying, "I have never met a person with more energy or enthusiasm for her work. When you leave her class, you are wowed by her immense commitment to providing the necessary knowledge to her students, not just related to the given area taught that day, but also with regard to the underlying issues in every case or policy issue . . .Her door is always open to everyone." Another student said, "Professor Crawford stands out as an amazing professor because she has this great ability to turn staid topics into exciting energetic lectures. She also breaks down complex legal concepts into understandable pieces in a way that makes us all wonder why we were confused in the first place."

Professor Morse is an exceptional teacher. First, he has an incredibly deep understanding of the tax law. Second, he has a true passion for the subject matter he teaches and is able to instill that passion and interest in his students. Third, is a very well respected professor. The first thing that strike as a student of Professor Morse is that he truly knows 'his tax stuff.' He doesn't just know the answers to the problems he has assigned and merely recite that limited bit of information when teaching. He takes you beyond the shallow water of superficial explanations and gives you a deep, well rounded understanding of the complicated principles of tax law. When sitting in Prof. Morse's Taxation of Business enterprise class, each day I was truly impressed with how excited he seemed to be able to teach our class. You could tell he truly enjoyed the subject matter and wanted his class to understand the concepts and develop the same level of interest. His enthusiasm along with his positive reinforcement which he provided his students when they didn't quite grasp a concept, he me realize that I too could learn and someday practice in this complex area of law.

Prof. Neeleman does not confine his tax course to a case book. He has developed additional problems to flesh out the relevant cases and code sections. Instead of using the traditional Socratic method while reviewing a case he uses the Socratic method with the problems. The problems create a teaching opportunity and are not merely short cuts to dispense the black letter law. The problems are usually not simple and require applying common law, relevant code sections, and previously covered materials. In addition, the problems usually have multiple parts and each part adds an additional layer of complexity. Prof. Neeleman is also a well-spring of legal ethics. Not only does he teach what is permissible under the law, but he also points out what permissible behavior is not necessarily ethical. It is refreshing to have a teacher that doesn't just teach what you can get away with. Finally, the fascinating thing about Prof. Neeleman is that even though he brings his case book and tax code supplement to class, he never opens them. It is all in his head. He remembers every detail about the cases, about his own problems, and the code text. Amazing!

Professor Pareja]'s courses require students to actively learn material. His teaching style incorporates problem-based learning, quizzes, written exercises, class participation, student teaching of material, along with his own creative and practice-based presentation of materials. His courses are rigorous and challenge students to grapple with new material in a way that ensures they understand and are able to apply the material. Student comments regarding [his] teaching demonstrate that he is well-regarded by his students for his high expectations of their performances. Because of his teaching, several students have decided upon tax as their area of concentration and practice, a decision which even surprised some of them.

Dean Schizer is an outstanding person as well as lecturer. He displays tremendous respect for his students. His clarity of teaching as well as his ability to draw the students into discussion made him by far the best professor I had at Columbia. What was particularly interesting is that he has a strong tax focus, which is not known as the most engaging of topics. Nevertheless, Dean Schizer's classes are always full and well attended. Despite his outstanding intellect, Dean Schizer is very approachable. His natural humility marks him as an exceptional human being.

Professor Walker teaches Corporations and Tax to huge numbers of students, many of whom say they refuse to take these courses from anyone else. Her gets near perfect evaluations in Tax, of all things, even while teaching sections of over 100. He maintains his reputation as an extremely humane professor even while working his students as hard as anyone in the school."

Nominations remain open and will be accepted through March 30, 2010.

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