Saturday, November 2, 2013
There is a new teaching portfolio on the Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers Website: International Tax by Anthony C. Infanti. The website describes the portfolio as an "advanced tax course taken by upper-level students. The course is designed to transmit substantive knowledge through a problem-based approach."
Professor Infanti declares: "I aim to equip my students with the skills that they need to lead successful and rewarding professional lives. This means not only providing them with substantive knowledge of the tax laws but also the analytical, research, and writing skills that are key to success. It likewise means starting students thinking about the type of professional they wish to be and introducing them to both the social justice aspects of tax law and their part in shaping the role of tax law in our society."
He then describes the class: "In my International Tax course, my goal is to build on the foundation that I lay in my Federal Income Tax course and to provide my students with more targeted preparation for practicing tax law. I aim to expose them to a much greater level of practical problem solving. I also aim for them to develop and hone the research and writing skills that will be essential to their success in the practice of tax law, which, more than almost any other area of law practice, can involve significant research and writing responsibilities even into the senior levels of practice. Though I have always taught this course using the problem-based approach and broached ethical issues as they arise in the problems, it took a few years of teaching before I moved away from grading students using a final exam and instead began to use writing assignments. This first began some eight or nine years ago because I realized that, given the complexity and technical nature of the subject, an exam was frustrating both to me and to the students. Searching for an alternative, I quickly settled on the idea of helping to better train students for the actual practice of tax law by developing their research and writing skills—the skills that were essential to my own practice before entering teaching. In the first iteration of the revamped course, I had students work on a single, large writing assignment that was due at the end of the semester. This proved to be little better than the final exam. Even though the writing was practical and highly structured (a private letter ruling request), the students struggled with it. After discussing my frustrations with colleagues, I next moved to the format that I now use: training in research followed by a purely research assignment, next followed by a series of three assignments that ask students to write the typical memorandum to a partner (or the file) that tax lawyers prepare everyday."