Emily Klick and Joshua Rabon, both members of the Class of 2012, won the American Bar Association’s Section of Taxation Law’s 2012 Law Student Tax Challenge. The semi-final and final rounds of the competition were held at the section’s mid-year meeting in San Diego, California, on February 16 and 17.
Klick and Rabon also received the competition’s top award for “best written submission.”
The Law Student Tax Challenge involved 119 teams of two students each representing more than 50 law schools. After being named semi-finalists on the basis of their two written submissions, the Vanderbilt team of Rabon and Klick competed against five other teams in semi-final and final rounds to win the oral competition. All semi-finalists in the competition received an expense-paid trip to the section’s mid-year meeting in San Diego and had the opportunity to attend conference sessions.
“We are the first Vanderbilt team ever to enter this competition, so we were particularly excited to win first place and best written submission,” Rabon said.
Some of the country’s leading tax practitioners, including tax court judges, counsel with the IRS, and attorneys in private practice, judged the competition’s semi-final and final rounds. The semi-finalists presented their legal analyses of the problem to judges playing the roles of law firm senior partners. The three teams selected as finalists then presented to judges playing the roles of a senior partner, a senior associate and the client.
Rabon, who will join the legal staff in the Internal Revenue Service’s international division after earning his law degree, “stumbled upon” the Law Student Tax Challenge on the American Bar Association’s website last fall and recruited Klick as his teammate. The competition required students to research the federal income tax-planning issues for a complex business-planning problem.
Teams who entered the competition, responded to the “real-life” business tax problem with a ten-page memo to a senior partner and a four-page client letter. The problem was released by the section in September, and students were given two months in which to draft and submit their written responses.
Rabon and Klick were coached by Vanderbilt Law Professor Herwig Schlunk, an expert in tax law. Professors Andrew Kaufman, Jeffrey Schoenblum and Yesha Yadav provided feedback during practice rounds. “We also asked two classmates who had not taken tax law courses—Katie Brown and Lauren Gregory—to give us feedback,” Klick said. “These practice rounds were very helpful.”
Klick earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Puget Sound and worked as a paralegal for Micron Technology Inc. in Boise, Idaho, for two years before entering law school. Rabon earned his undergraduate degree in accounting and a master’s degree in taxation at the University of South Carolina before entering law school.