Thursday, January 26, 2012

Teaching Skills in Tax Class

I have long thought that tax would be a good course in which to incorporate skills exercises because it is hard to memorize and understand the tax code and rules without applying them.

Abstract:  As our students continue to enter a legal profession that is changing and as the models for the delivery of legal services continue to evolve, so should our pedagogy. Thus, the modest objective of this piece is to share my experience, and offer some thoughts, about developing and integrating practice-oriented experiential modules into tax lecture courses. This article explains and reflects upon two exercises that I have used to provide students with opportunities to play the role of a lawyer in transactional tax planning settings. Both exercises are intended to help students begin to see how they can turn their growing substantive knowledge into “useful tax advice.” By “useful tax advice,” I mean informative and understandable advice that comprehensively addresses the client’s economic objectives (including, but not limited to the client’s tax objectives) and that gives the client a clear appreciation of the benefits and risks of a tax-related business decision; as a result of this advice, the client should be able to make an educated choice.

I hope that others can use, and hopefully improve upon, the exercises discussed herein. Moreover, I hope that, when creating and implementing experiential modules in their classes, others can use my reflections to avoid my mistakes and build on my successes. Ultimately, I hope that I can make even a small contribution to the development of the professoriate and to our collective endeavor of helping law students become lawyers.

(Scott Fruehwald)

P.S.  There is also a book in the Skills & Values Series on tax skills.  Federal Income Tax by Michelle L. Drumbl & Deborah S. Kerns (LexisNexis 2011).

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