November 30, 2020 People in Tax

Interview with Frank DiPietro

By Tameka E. Lester, Georgia State University College of Law, Atlanta, GA

Frank DiPietro served as a Christina A. Brunswick Public Service Fellow in 2015–2017 and worked at the University of Minnesota Tax Clinic where he focused on helping immigrant communities resolve tax-related issues in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas. He now conducts a solo tax controversy practice in New York.

ATT: What piqued your interest about tax practice? What inspired you to apply for the Christine A. Brunswick Public Service Fellowship?

FD: I had a finance background and always liked math. In fact, my nickname was Frankie Number. When I went to law school at the University of Minnesota, I knew I wanted to study tax and security law. So I enrolled in the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic. It was such a rewarding experience. My supervising attorney learned about the Christine A. Brunswick Public Service Fellowship, and she thought I would be a good candidate based on the work I did as a student attorney. I decided to apply for the fellowship so I could continue my clinical work. In doing so, I was able to engage in a joint project with the James H. Binger Center for New Americans to develop outreach and educational services for immigrants who faced tax-related issues that jeopardized their eligibility for permanent immigration status or U.S. citizenship.

ATT: What were the most beneficial and rewarding parts of your fellowship?

FD: As an individual who decided to go to law school later in life, the most beneficial part of the fellowship was that it actually gave me the space to learn how to become an attorney. I learned how to work within time constraints and deadlines with no extensions, and I had to respond in an appropriate manner. I learned how to speak to clients, especially taxpayers from immigrant communities, and how to work with low-income taxpayers. This allowed me to see the issues taxpayers were actually facing and the practical effects of their tax-related consequences (such as having to pay rent while experiencing a social security levy).

I was very fortunate I had great mentors to help me along the way. They allowed me to engage in this rewarding work and give back to my community. As a result of the fellowship, I was able to become a clinic director. In that capacity, I was able to go into local communities and explain how tax laws worked to taxpayers. This would not have been possible without the fellowship.

ATT: What advice would you give to others who are considering applying to the fellowship program?

FD: When advising others to consider the fellowship program, I encourage them to choose their organization wisely. You want to find a great organization to work with, and once you do, come up with a detailed plan for how you can provide a new service for the organization. During my fellowship I did a joint project with the Center for New Americas and designed an outreach program for the local Somalian immigrant community. This included generating flyers to advertise the services of the clinic so we could help them resolve their tax-related controversies.

ATT: How has the fellowship impacted your career?

FD: The fellowship allowed me to become knowledgeable in the tax law field and gain a good reputation for doing pro bono work. It also opened doors for me to get my first clinic director job at Indiana Legal Services, do presentations, and write articles and book chapters. Simply put, I would not be the attorney I am today without the Christine A. Brunswick Public Service Fellowship.

The fellowship was a phenomenal opportunity! I enjoyed it so much I encouraged others to apply once I became a clinical director, too.