Business Attorney Builds Boardroom Confidence with Tax LLM
Despite years of experience as a business and tax attorney as a partner in a national law firm, Terri Wagner Cammarano JD ’88/Tax LLM ‘03 sometimes felt a bit intimidated in meetings with financial and accounting experts. Earning her Tax LLM degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles made her feel like an equal.
“I felt a lot more confident sitting in the room with CFOs and investment bankers because I could confidently use financial and accounting terms, and I weigh in on tax nuances to which they might not be sensitive,” says Cammarano, who was part of Loyola’s first Tax LLM class entering in 2000. She was just named general counsel of Cedars-Sinai, a major nonprofit healthcare organization based in Los Angeles.
While the corporate and banking experts would provide an accounting perspective to the business planning meetings, Cammarano found she added her own value with a unique tax perspective. “And bringing that perspective as a lawyer, as opposed to bringing it as an accountant, I think, is also special.” For instance, she might be able to caution participants about a California nonprofit statute of which they weren’t even aware.
A Southern California native, Cammarano knew she wanted to become a lawyer from an early age. When she applied to law schools, Loyola won hands down. “Loyola made me feel that they really wanted me there.”
She soon came to feel the same way about the school overall. Her professors were engaging and supportive of a young scholarship student. “So many professors were helpful in getting me through that first year,” she says.
Cammarano’s initial job after graduating was with O’Melveny & Myers LLP’s Newport Beach office, which was small enough she could work on both business and tax matters. She soon figured out she loved working with nonprofit organizations, particularly those in the health care field.
Later a partner with Hooper Lundy & Bookman, PC, a national health care law firm, she has been general counsel for two California nonprofit integrated healthcare systems. Her work has centered on mergers, affiliations, compliance and other business matters in the highly regulated field. Cammarano also advised clients on tax-exemption matters, such as tax-exempt bond financing and charitable giving, which led to her considering a Tax LLM.
When Loyola announced its Tax LLM program, she enrolled right away. Working during the day as a partner at Foley & Lardner, and taking classes at night, Cammarano earned her LLM in 2003. She loved the program, she says, because it helped her put her knowledge of some specialized tax topics in context. “I knew about a lot about some of the specific tax trees. Loyola’s program gave me an understanding of the full tax forest.”
Some of her favorite classes were team-taught by a full-time professor and an adjunct professor who was a topic expert. For instance, one class on ERISA and employee benefits was taught by Professor Ellen Aprill, a nationally known tax expert who holds the John E. Anderson Chair in Tax Law, and David E. Gordon, then a partner at O’Melveny & Myers.
“The class was interactive and engaging because it gave the students both a policy perspective as well as real-world examples,” Cammarano says.
As invested as her professors were in her, Cammarano also is now invested in Loyola, which helped her achieve professional success. She’s been back to campus as an adjunct professor to teach a course on nonprofit organizations as part of Loyola’s Tax LLM program, and she has for many years been a planning committee member for Loyola’s annual Western Conference on Tax Exempt Organizations.
Like other Loyola professors, she has made a point of helping and supporting her students. “I keep in touch professionally and socially with several of the people who took my class,” she says. “Loyola’s program turns out great people. When I was an in-house lawyer, I engaged a former student for a tax matter. That is how much they impressed me.
Are you ready to make a difference in your career? Find out more about Loyola’s Tax LLM program.