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November 09, 2003

2003-2004 Law Student Tax Challenge

Problem, Participants & Semi-Finalist Answers


Congratulations to the winning teams, and to all those who entered!

The semi-finalists were:

  • Yossi Cohen and Yan Zhang, University of Michigan
  • John G. Huisman and Joseph Ballard, University of Tennessee
  • Elke Esbjornson and Nisha Patel, Southern Methodist University
  • Chantell Green and Milan Saha, New York Law School
  • Adam Boston and Bruce A. Gage, Western New England College
  • Matthew Rockey-Hawley and Melissa Bridges, Michigan State University


  • The 1st Place Team was Matthew Rockey-Hawley and Melissa Bridges, of the Michigan State University DCL College of Law.
  • The 2nd Place Team was John G. Huisman and Joseph Ballard, of the University of Tennessee College of Law.
  • The 3rd Place Team was Elke Esbjornson and Nisha Patel, of the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law.
  • The Best Written Submission was by John G. Huisman and Joseph Ballard, of the University of Tennessee College of Law.


Judges for Semi-Final Rounds

  • Christine L. Agnew,  Weil, Gotshal & Manges
  • Adam Cohen,  Holland & Hart
  • Andrew M. Eisenberg,  KPMG
  • Leslie E. Grodd,  Blazzard Grodd & Hasenauer
  • Michael B. Lang,  Chapman University School of Law
  • Cynthia J. Mattson
  • Gary B. Wilcox,  Internal Revenue Service

Judges for Final Rounds

  • Jerald D. August,  August & Kulunas
  • Reginald J. Clark,  Sutherland Asbill & Brennan
  • Melinda Merk,  Ernst & Young
  • Mark L. Yecies,  Ernst & Young
  • Lisa Zarlenga,  Steptoe & Johnson

Judge Biographies

  • Christine L. Agnew graduated from State University of New York with a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in 1994, and from University of Miami School of Law Cum Laude in 1997. She has been practicing with the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP since 1999 and is admitted to practice in both New York and Texas. Ms. Agnew's practice primarily focuses on complex mergers and acquisitions, restructurings in and out of bankruptcy and public debt and equity offerings.

    Ms. Agnew is the Assistant Secretary of the ABA Section of Taxation and the Tax Section's representative to the ABA's Commission on Women in the Profession. She is a John S. Nolan Fellow of the ABA Section of Taxation, the former Chair of the ABA Section of Taxation Young Lawyers Forum and a member of the ABA Section of Taxation Partnerships and LLCs and Corporate Tax Committees. In addition to her ABA activities, Ms. Agnew serves on various committees for state and local bar associations in both Texas and New York. She has authored numerous articles that have appeared in Tax Notes International, Canadian Tax Highlights, International Law Quarterly, University of Miami Law Review and University of Miami Inter-American Law Review.
  • Adam M. Cohen is an associate in the Denver office of Holland & Hart, where his practice emphasizes the tax aspects of structuring the formation, acquisition, disposition, operation and liquidation of businesses of all sizes. In addition, he advises low income housing tax credit projects and provides advice regarding registration requirements under Section 6111 of the Internal Revenue Code and reportable transaction requirements under Section 6011. He received his B.A. degree from Rice University in 1997 and his J.D. degree from the George Washington University School of Law in 2000. Mr. Cohen has written and spoken on such topics as reportable transactions, tax accounting, tax-exempt entities and partnership agreements. He is a past co-chair of the judging committee and the challenge writing committee for the Tax Law Challenge.
  • Andrew M. Eisenberg is a Partner at KPMG, where he advises clients and KPMG professionals in all aspects of taxation regarding mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, liquidating and non-liquidating corporate distributions, corporate reorganizations and consolidated returns. He also serves as an adjunct professor of corporate taxation at the Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C., and is the Chair of the Corporation Tax Committee of the D.C. Bar Association. A frequent lecturer, Mr. Eisenberg instructs internal and external continuing professional education courses. He has written articles for several tax publications including The Tax Adviser, The Journal of Corporate Taxation, and The Journal of Taxation.

    Before joining KPMG in 1996, Mr. Eisenberg served at the National Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Office of the Chief Counsel (Corporate), in Washington, D.C. He is a Certified Public Accountant and a Member of the D.C. Bar Association and the Maryland Bar Association. Mr. Eisenberg earned an LL.M. in taxation at The Georgetown Law Center in 1996. He earned a J.D. at California Western School of Law in 1992 and graduated from Mercer University with a B.S. in business administration in 1983.
  • Leslie E. Grodd is a principal with the Westport, Connecticut firm of Blazzard, Grodd & Hasenauer, P.C., where he has practiced since 1974. A Certified Public Accountant, he is a member of the American Institute and Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants and a fellow of the American College of Tax Counsel. Mr. Grodd is admitted to practice before the Courts of Connecticut, New York, the District of Columbia, the Federal District Court of Connecticut, the United States Tax Court and the United States Supreme Court. He is listed in The Best Lawyers In America, Who's Who in America and Who's Who in American Law. He holds a B.A. from the University of Vermont, a J.D. from St. John's University in New York, and an M.B.A. in Taxation from New York University. Mr. Grodd is the Last Retiring Chair of the Closely Held Businesses Committee of the ABA Section of Taxation and a past Chair of the Tax Section of the Connecticut Bar Association.
  • Melinda Merk is a Tax Manager in the Personal Financial Counseling group of Ernst & Young in McLean, Virginia. Her practice focuses on estate, gift, and income tax planning for high net worth individuals. Prior to joining Ernst & Young in 1998, she practiced law for three years as an associate for a small law firm in Rockville, Maryland, concentrating in the area of estates and trusts.

    Melinda received a B.S. (cum laude) from Shepherd College in 1991, a J.D. from the Duquesne University School of Law in 1994, and an LL.M. in Taxation (with distinction) from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1996. She is admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia (1998). Melinda is also a member of the Maryland State Bar Association (Estates and Trusts Law Section), and the Virginia State Bar Association (Section of Trusts and Estates).

    Melinda is a Past Chair of the ABA Tax Section Young Lawyers Forum and was awarded the John S. Nolan Tax Law Fellowship in 2002. She is also a member of the ABA Tax Section Estate and Gift Tax Committee and Fiduciary Income Tax Committee. As a Past Co-Chair of the Tax Law Committee of the ABA Young Lawyers Division, Melinda testified before the ABA Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice in support of MDPs.

    She has published several articles, including "Joint Trusts for Married Couples Domiciled in Common-Law Property States," which was featured in the Summer 1997 issue of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Journal (a publication of the ABA Section of Real Property, Probate and Trust Law). She is also an author of the Ernst & Young Tax Saver's Guide and the Ernst & Young Financial Planning Reporter.
  • Lisa M. Zarlenga is a partner with the Washington DC-based law firm of Steptoe & Johnson LLP. She is a member of the firm's tax group. Ms. Zarlenga practices in the area of federal income taxation, with
    particular emphasis on corporate transactional and planning matters.

    Ms. Zarlenga's practice focuses on structuring tax-free and taxable corporate acquisitions, dispositions, and spin-offs, including providing opinion letters and seeking advance rulings from the IRS. She also has experience regarding the use of LLCs in corporate transactions and the rules governing consolidated groups. Ms. Zarlenga also handles tax audit and controversy matters, including advising clients during the audit process and preparing protests.

    Ms. Zarlenga has been very involved in the American Bar Association and the District of Columbia Bar and currently serves as an officer on the Corporate Tax Committees of both. Ms. Zarlenga has also spoken and written articles on various topics involving corporate tax matters.