March 10, 2009
Michigan State University College of Law Law Students’ Alternative Spring Break
New Orleans, LA
March 9 through March 14, 2009
Posted By: Professor Michele LaForest Halloran, Director of Clinical Programs and Director of the Tax Clinic, MSU College of Law
Twelve MSU Law students have generously given up their usual “spring break” rest and fun for a commitment to provide service to the working poor in New Orleans. The students are divided between two locations, one at the Community Center of St. Bernard Parish in Arabi, LA, the other at Gateway in Harvey, LA, a treatment center for veterans and others suffering from alcohol and substance abuse. Instead of providing the type of services often found in the New Orleans area these days – cleanup and home building – these students are preparing tax returns for residents, the vast majority of whom are under the poverty level.
Before assembling for Alternative Spring Break, each of the law students passed a complex examination to become certified as a volunteer income tax preparer through the Internal Revenue Service. Following is commentary from the students and one of their attorney supervisors after their first day at work; we plan to add to this commentary each day.
Monday, March 9, 2009
• Per usual, the first day of preparing taxes in New Orleans was hectic but satisfying. The continuous scramble of trying to set up the computer system was an onerous task. Once we had the system set up, however, everything ran smoothly. Helping the Gateway residents with their taxes was rewarding.
• Being at Gateway today was exciting. The day started by getting set up and getting to know several of the office employees. Everyone was generous, accommodating, and especially patient as we worked out the kinks on our first day. Now that we have a routine figured out, things are running smoother, and I have high hopes for the rest of the week.
• When everything was worked out with computers, printers, and local networking, we waited for the rush of eager taxpayers. When word got out, we got to work. It was nerve wracking at first, but after a few returns, I felt calm and confident in the work we were doing. If I could have done one thing different to prepare, it would have been to have had advocacy practice at school before we flew out. I am looking forward to tomorrow.
• Although things started slowly, once things picked up, I got to apply my years of tax education in a practical way. Actually, doing this is a lot different than reading cases, and I enjoyed practicing my tax knowledge in a one-on-one client-based manner.
• Well, I was very nervous going in to do taxes today. Granted, I’ve always done my own, but in this case, I was dealing with other people’s information and ensuring they properly file their returns. Fortunately, though, after the first return, my fears were eased, and preparing taxes wasn’t that bad. Everyone is so grateful for our help and it’s been rewarding thus far.
• Our first day of working in NOLA was finally here! The experience of working with our clients continues to be exciting and has been extremely satisfying. It feels great to help good people in unfortunate situations help themselves. The team camaraderie has been great! I look forward to Day Two.
• We serviced 18 residents at Gateway and 8 residents at the St. Bernard Parish community center on Monday, the first day. Word has a tendency to spread like wildfire around here (at Gateway), and I expect an onslaught of clients the rest of the week. We also took information about a number of residents with existing tax controversies, and will be taking those materials back to our tax clinical program to initiate representation of those taxpayers as clients. This is the most rewarding experience – the sincere gratitude expressed by those whom we have served – the smiles on their faces – are the best, and only, rewards!
March 10, 2009 | Permalink
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Michigan State University College of Law Law Students’ Alternative Spring Break: