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Penn Law students visit D.C. for immersive tax law experience

April 13, 2015

On March 20, 10 Penn Law students visited Washington, D.C., to meet with tax attorneys and economists as part of the Model Government Service and Public Affairs Initiative.

The second- and third-year students, along with Penn Law professors Michael Knoll, Chris William Sanchirico, and Reed Shuldiner; Bok Visiting International Professor Wolfgang Schoen; and Associate Director of Public Sector Careers and Director of Government Programs Neta Borshansky, visited Congress, the U.S. Treasury, and the U.S. Tax Court.

“To many students, the law is written in a textbook, a code, or court opinions that they read,” said Knoll, Theodore K. Warner Professor of Law and Professor of Real Estate, Co-Director of the Center for Tax Law and Policy, and Deputy Dean of the Law School. “We wanted them to see that writing, enforcing, and litigating the law is not abstract and impersonal, but an often complex and messy process with many actors.”

In their visits with the attorneys working with the Joint Committee on Taxation on the Hill, students got to see the legislative side of tax policy, including the direct impact lawyers have in drafting legislation.

And at the Department of the Treasury, students had the chance to speak with attorneys and economists from the Office of Tax Analysis, who talked about their career paths and their sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from tackling the complex issues handled by the government.

“The trip was a great opportunity to meet with professionals in different administrative and regulatory areas,” said Shyla Giri L’16. “I specifically enjoyed learning about the different career paths available to tax attorneys, from the private to public sector and back again.”

“It was very interesting to learn about the different roles that attorneys play in our government,” said Kevin Dermody L’16. “The duties of lawyers in the Treasury Department were very different from the responsibilities of the lawyers who worked with the Joint Committee on Taxation. We were able to see how the different organizations impact each other.”

Finally, the students spoke with judges from the U.S. Tax Court, who travel throughout the country hearing tax cases.

“Programs like these provide the students a great opportunity to understand how government really works and the role of lawyers in government,” said Shuldiner, Alvin L. Snowiss Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Center for Tax Law and Policy. “For a student interested in tax, seeing how the three branches: Congress, Treasury, and the Tax Court, approached different aspects of the law was invaluable.”

“The trip brought home to the students that tax law is an area with abundant opportunities for public service — opportunities that can both enrich and further a career in law,” added Sanchirico, Samuel A. Blank Professor of Law, Business, and Public Policy and Co-Director of the Center for Tax Law and Policy.

The Model Initiative plans to take students on more trips in the future, focusing on areas such as civil rights, international law, intellectual property, and financial regulation.

The Model Government Service and Public Affairs Initiative was established with the support of the Leo Model Foundation to prepare students for work in the fields of government service and public policy. The initiative includes a number of programs designed to promote government service, ranging from the Model Policy/Government Research Seminars to an array of fellowships, externships, and internships.