November 18, 2016 Young Lawyers Corner

Attending an ABA Tax Section Meeting as a Young Lawyer

By Shawn McIntire, Ballard Spahr LLP, Denver, CO

Attending an ABA Tax Section meeting can be intimidating for a law student or young lawyer. Many of the attorneys you meet were at the forefront in developing and substantiating legal principles you studied in law school. Although many of the substantive panels may seem beyond your practice, the ABA Tax Section’s Young Lawyers Forum (YLF) is dedicated to bridging the gap between new attorneys and seasoned professionals. This article provides a glimpse into the different YLF activities at Tax Section meetings and throughout the year, focusing specifically on YLF panels at the most recent Fall meeting in Boston.

Tax Bridge to Practice

Tax Bridge to Practice is a series of panels that kick off the Tax Section’s meeting on Thursday afternoon before the main sessions begin. As the name indicates, Tax Bridge to Practice focuses on issues that young lawyers will face in practice. Often the panels will discuss the  tax provisions applicable to a particular issue, giving the attendees an opportunity to understand the basic framework that might not otherwise be covered in committee panels. The Tax Bridge program is generally presented during the May Meeting in Washington, D.C.; however, occasionally the YLF presents a “Tax Bridge on the Road” at the Midyear or Fall Meeting. The Boston meeting offered five panels in the Tax Bridge, as well as a special conversation with Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate.

Intersection of Sports and Tax Law – This panel discussed the federal and state tax laws affecting sports franchises and players. The panelists provided insight for attorneys representing professional athletes on a variety of issues, including state domicile and residency.

Tax Court 101: Pre-Trial Tips & Best Practices – As with many of the Tax Bridge panels, this panel provided a basic breakdown of Tax Court procedures with practical tips for any new lawyer in this practice area.

Basics & Hot Topics: RICs and REITs – The panelists discussed regulated investment companies (RICs) and real estate investment trusts (REITs) under subchapter M, addressing the purpose of RICs and REITs, the qualification requirements for REITs and RICs, and the taxation of both entities and their investors.

Same-Sex Estate Planning After Obergfell v. Hodges – George Karibjanian from Proskauer Rose and Laura Westfall from King & Spalding examined the various theoretical, procedural, and practical considerations that come into play in same-sex estate planning. The panelists addressed topics such as asset protection, the differences between domestic partnership and marriage, and state law issues.

Hot Topic: Tax Implications of the Sharing Economy – This panel discussed the growing complexity of tax issues arising in online transactions. Given the rapid expansion in online transactions, both in terms of quantity and type, the IRS and state taxing authorities have focused on interpreting current laws and developing regulations to deal with these new business structures and cover this growing portion of our economy.

YLF and Diversity Panels

In addition to the Tax Bridge, the YLF hosts at least one substantive panel each Section meeting.  Often the YLF and Diversity Committee offer joint panels. In Boston, Cathy Fung of the IRS Chief Counsel’s office led a panel called On the Road to Success: What You Don’t Learn in Law School which featured a panel of junior and mid-level attorneys. They provided their perspectives on finding their first legal positions after law school, learning the ropes in those positions, and excelling in their first legal jobs and beyond. The panelists discussed their experiences in large and mid-size law firms, government, accounting firms, clerkships, and low-income taxpayer clinics.

YLF Panel on Legal Incubators

Immediate past YLF Chair Anne-Marie Rabago brought together a panel of practitioners in Legal Incubators: What Are They and How Can They Impact My Practice? This panel, comprised of individuals on the forefront of the legal incubator movement, discussed the emergence of incubators and residency programs across the country. These incubators benefit newly-admitted lawyers, experienced practitioners, and the communities in which they are located by providing low-cost legal services through cost sharing among a group of less experienced attorneys.

YLF and Diversity Reception

At the conclusion of the Friday sessions, the YLF and Diversity Committee host a reception that is open to all Tax Sections members. Many more senior members attend, providing an opportunity for young lawyers to mingle with experienced Section members in a casual setting. This event is a mainstay in every Tax Section meeting.

Other YLF Projects

One of the YLF’s most important projects is organizing the annual Law Student Tax Challenge. This is the 16th year of the competition, which provides an opportunity for J.D. and LL.M. students to compete in preparing a mock research project. Some teams will be selected to present to a panel of distinguished tax professionals and Tax Court judges at the finals. The competition is run solely by YLF members. Work on the competition spans the entire year with planning, development, grading, and organizing the oral round of finals at the Midyear meeting.

The YLF is also a gateway to the other Tax Section committees. It acts as a liaison to place many of its members in substantive committees through participation in panels and research projects.

If you are interested in becoming involved in the YLF or participating on a future panel or in the Law Student Tax Challenge, please contact Shawn McIntire at mcintires@ballardspahr.com for more information.