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Tax Moot Court Team continues string of national competition successes

New England Law has been a perennial contender in the prestigious competition

(Boston 5/3/12)  New England Law | Boston: New England Law | Boston’s Tax Moot Court Team–Wanda Allen ’12 and Justin Kesselman ’13–won the first runner-up Best Brief award and finished as a quarterfinalist overall in this year’s National Tax Moot Court Competition.

Tax Moot Team '12 (L-R): Professor Eric Lustig, Wanda Allen ’12, Justin Kesselman ’13
The competition was held February 2-4, 2012, in Clearwater Beach, FL. Sixteen law school teams considered a hypothetical appeal before a federal circuit court. Preliminary rounds of the oral argument competition were judged by members of the Tax Section of the Florida Bar, which sponsored the competition.  Judges from the United States Tax Court judged the final and consolation rounds.
 
This year's problem involved whether a taxpayer should be held liable as a "responsible person" for unpaid employee trust fund taxes.  There was also a jurisdictional problem as to whether the taxpayer should have been able to argue his case before the Tax Court.
 
The team was coached by Professor Eric Lustig of the law school’s Center for Business Law.  He teaches Business Organizations, Business Planning, Personal Income Taxation, and Taxation of Business Entities.

“This year’s team advanced to the quarterfinal rounds before losing a very close decision to the eventual champions,” noted Professor Lustig.  “The students were well prepared, and I appreciate the assistance provided by my tax law colleagues, including Professors [Wilton] Hyman, [Sarah] Salter, and [Kent] Schenkel and by the numerous alumni who also generously contributed their time and expertise. Many team alums came back to campus at night and on weekends to practice the team.”

Allen is currently interning at the Massachusetts Department of Revenue and is planning a tax law career. “I love tax,” she said, “and it was great to spend so much time with others who share that interest. Before we went so many people, including professors and alumni, helped prepare us that when we got to Florida we felt very prepared. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with oral argument previously but this was a great confidence-builder."

“It was one of the best experiences that I’ve had in law school so far,” said Kesselman, who added that the experience has piqued his interest in tax law.  “It improved my writing and advocacy skills, and my confidence.  Knowing both sides of an issue so completely helped us to advocate in an appellate setting by answering questions, adapting, and advocating our position.”
 
Their division of labor was somewhat unorthodox but ultimately successful. Allen handled the substantive aspects of the competition’s written portion and Kesselman wrote the procedural piece. They then switched assignments in the oral argument phase; Allen focused on procedure and Kesselman on substantive matters.
 
New England Law has been a perennial contender in the prestigious competition, having won eight brief awards since 1994. Last year’s team won best brief and consolation round honors; in 2010 the law school’s team won the national competition. 
 
The law school sponsors several teams that compete in regional and national advocacy events. Team membership is generally open to upper-level students, and coaching sessions are conducted several times a week in the run up to a moot competition.


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