What drew you to the law?
Fascination with a challenging intellectual discipline. I once read that the primary effect of law school is being forced to question your cherished certainties. That is depressing for some; I found it incredibly attractive. I was a late bloomer, though. There were no lawyers in my hometown (a small town of 1,200 people in rural Iowa), so my concept of the law was based on watching Perry Mason or The Defenders. Those programs were fun to watch but I never thought of that as something I might do. It wasn’t until much, much later that I was exposed to a more expansive view of the law and began to realize I might enjoy it.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
Learning – whether from examining something more deeply than I had before, in order to explain it to students, or from viewpoints by students that I hadn’t really considered. The opportunity to contribute to the students’ learning process and professional development is also very rewarding, and their enthusiasm is contagious. Of course, with a tax clinic, there is another very important component. Most taxpayers can’t navigate the tax system by themselves but can’t afford to hire practitioners to achieve the results they deserve. That is an inevitable, but unfortunate, result of the necessary complexity of tax law and procedure. Our clinic helps the tax system work better for our clients and has a much bigger impact than I could have by myself.
What do you hope students gain from your courses?
An understanding of how to work within a complex statutory and regulatory regime; practical knowledge of how to work with clients; interviewing and negotiating skills; creativity in finding a different approach when the normal method is blocked; satisfaction from making a difference for the clinic’s clients. And most importantly – fun.
What did you do prior to entering academia?
Before law school, I spent more than twenty years in various accounting and business positions, including with one of the “Big Four” CPA firms – it was the “Big Eight” at the time – and Mobil Oil Corporation. After law school and a year clerking with Judge Lindsay of the Northern District of Texas, I practiced tax law with the Dallas office of Thompson & Knight. (Professor Helge started with T&K at the same time and her office was just down the hall, until she left for academia.) I left T&K in 2014 and started a solo practice, which was also an opportunity to try teaching as an adjunct. Both at T&K and my solo practice, I helped clients who had disputes with the IRS, whether during audits, the administrative appeals process, collection due process hearings, or litigation in the Tax Court or the Court of Federal Claims.
What are you passionate about outside the law?
II enjoy spending time with my wife, visiting new or favorite restaurants, and reading. That may sound like a very sedentary lifestyle, but when my schedule permits, I also enjoy cut-throat aggression and competition – chess tournaments at a semi-professional level. (“Semi-professional” means that the tournaments have cash prizes but I never win enough to break even. I’m good, but there are always players who are better.)