Relationships that Count: Profs Help Tax LLM Alumna on Path to DOJ
For 3-year Joint JD/Tax LLM alumna Rebecca Layne ’14, the path to the Honors Program at the Department of Justice’s Civil Tax Division began at Loyola.
Entering Loyola’s JD/Tax LLM Program with no tax experience, Layne decided as a first-year student to take Introduction to Income Tax. She was hooked. That decision set in motion her pursuit of a 3-year Joint JD/Tax LLM.
Like most students in the program, Layne enrolled in the Summer Intensive Tax Program after her first year. She found the unique experience was challenging but invaluable.
“Tax law is such a complicated subject that it actually made it easier to learn the concepts all at once rather than try to slowly learn about each discrete subject over an extended period of time,” Layne said. “I was able to gain a global perspective, which helps me even today when I am confronted with a novel issue or topic.”
In gaining advanced knowledge right after her first year, Layne exploited an additional benefit: knowledge her peers did not have. “As a rising 2L, I was able to have substantive discussions on tax law and able to show a demonstrated interest in the subject matter. In my experience, no other law student has that capability so early on.”
Parlaying her unique knowledge into a summer internship with Deloitte, one of the Big Four accounting firms in the world, Layne found that programs like the Tax Policy Colloquium prepared her for the practical application of tax concepts. She saw first-hand how tax law relates to accounting principles while seasoned practitioners providing mentoring.
When Layne set her sights on a judicial clerkship, tax faculty members lined up to help. Professors Jennifer Kowal, Tax LLM Program director, and Katherine Pratt wrote letters of recommendation and provided feedback on her cover letter and resume. Acting on Pratt’s advice, Layne called every U.S. Tax Court judge advising them she would be available for interviews in Washington, D.C., and received multiple interview requests as a result. She landed a clerkship with the Hon. Kathleen Kerrigan in what became a pivotal moment in her career arc.
“Clerking is not only beneficial if you want to be a litigator. It also enables you to see the ultimate impact of various tax planning strategies, and how those will hold up in court or on audit,” she said. “It also sharpens your research skills and knowledge of tax law generally, since at the court we handle all issues as they come in, meaning you get well-acquainted with several different aspects of tax law.”
Layne credits her clerkship with rousing her interest in tax litigation and advocacy. It became a natural springboard to earning a spot at the Department of Justice, where she will begin a four-year stint this fall.
Throughout her entire academic career, Layne found one constant: faculty who went above and beyond. “The professors in the tax department at Loyola are the best I’ve ever had. Not only are they all distinguished academics at the top of their field who were able to explain hideously complicated tax concepts with ease, but they also all genuinely cared about the students’ success and practical experience coming out of the program,” she said.
The rarity of her experience was not lost on her. “Based on my discussions with friends who have attended other top ranking tax programs, my experience at Loyola was unique,” she said. “While other programs also have top academics and great teachers, none of my friends experienced the personalized attention and interest that I did at Loyola.”