Most students realize that traditional law school courses alone do not adequately prepare them for the practice of law. The ABA has recognized this with the adoption of language from the MacCrate Report in Section 301(a) of its Standards for Approval of Law Schools. The MacCrate Report discusses the gap between law school education and the practicing bar and encourages a bridge over that gap by recommending that fundamental lawyering skills and values be taught in law schools. Those fundamental skills are the subject of the LITC courses.
To develop these skills:
- Professional Judgment
- Recognition and Resolution of Ethical Dilemmas
- Factual investigation
- Client Relations
- Brief Writing
- Problem solving
- Legal analysis
- Legal research
- Practice and Time Management
More recently, the Carnegie Foundation completed a two-year study of legal education in which it concluded that, in contrast to medical schools and most other professional schools, law schools “give only casual attention to teaching students how to use legal thinking in the complexity of actual law practice.” An unbalanced emphasis on substantive courses alone “can create problems as students move into practice”.
The clinic is not designed to be a tax course, although it offers significant benefits for those wanting to practice in the field of taxation. The tax law affects every individual, and students will encounter tax issues regardless of the area of law in which they choose to practice. The clinic’s staff and its clients realize that student attorneys working in the clinic are not tax experts and do not expect them to become tax experts during the semester-long course. Students are expected to follow clinic procedure and have the following resources available to them for guidance on tax issues:
- Director, Associate Director, Assistant Directors and Supervising Attorney
- Website (Electronic Textbook)
- Classroom instruction
- Extensive on-line libraries
The clinic is not a simulation course. The clinic represents low-income taxpayers pro bono in their disputes with the IRS. Each student is assigned live cases and will interact directly with clients under the supervision of the clinic’s director, associate director, assistant directors and supervising attorney. Class sessions are held to cover substantive and procedural tax law, as well as clinic administrative procedures and lawyering skills in general. During class sessions discussions of specific clients’ issues also take place.
Students meet with either the clinic director or associate director or supervising attorney on a weekly basis to discuss and evaluate their assigned cases. The associate director and supervising attorney’s offices are located within the clinic, and they and the clinic director are available for consultation anytime outside class sessions and scheduled weekly meetings.
Students completing the Clinic I course may register for the Clinic II course at the discretion of the director. Clinic II students are not required to attend most class sessions.
If you are taking the clinic over a 14 week term, you are expected to devote approximately 11 “billable hours”, on average, each week throughout the semester to your work in the clinic for a total of 154 “billable hours,” which are hours spent directly working on client files. If you are taking the clinic over a seven-week term, you are expected to complete 130 “billable hours.” Time spent in class, preparing for class, updating your files in amicus, maintaining the paperwork in your files, and doing assigned reading is not applied toward that time commitment and should not be recorded in Amicus, although time in your weekly meetings with your supervising attorney discussing your cases and all work that you directly perform on a case should be recorded in Amicus as billable time. Seven of those hours each week must take place in the clinic offices during normal business hours. During the first couple of weeks of the term, you will probably have to work more than the average number of hours to familiarize yourself with your cases, but you can apply those excess hours to the total number of hours required during the term. In addition, you are expected to complete the Assigned Reading and the Blackboard Modules assigned to you for the semester.
During exam periods you are expected to engage in the steps needed to transition your cases. During the first couple of weeks of each term, you will probably have to work more than the average number of hours in order to familiarize yourself with your cases.
As with other courses, some students will spend more time on clinic work than others. This may be due to differences in knowledge, time management or just out of concern and sympathy for their clients. Work will expand to fit the time allotted to it, so students must learn to effectively manage their time. The clinic has in place resources to assist in the completion of tasks as efficiently as possible. This is a fundamental practice management skill that is critical to an attorney’s success. Just as the management of any law firm is concerned about its associates’ abilities to resolve matters as efficiently as possible, the clinic staff is committed to helping students manage their caseloads through instruction, prioritization and, if necessary, reassignment. This is a benefit to beginning lawyers because students are able to learn these skills in an actual law firm setting without assuming ultimate responsibility for billable time.
The clinic course is unlike a traditional law school course in that competition among students is discouraged and students are not graded relative to the performance of their peers, and competition among students is discouraged. The success of any law firm depends on the cooperative efforts of its lawyers, and if that cooperation yields successful results, everyone should benefit. Likewise, in the clinic, students are expected to cooperate by helping each other with client matters and by sharing knowledge. There is no grading curve. Thus, if every student performs well, all grades will reflect such performance. Students are not graded on tax expertise but instead are evaluated on the following:
- Professionalism and Ethics – which includes exercising sound professional judgment, interacting appropriately with your clients, Internal Revenue Service personnel, fellow students and staff, appropriate dress when necessary and adherence to clinic administrative and other procedures including meeting all time sensitive deadlines;
- Quality of service you render to your clients;
- Accuracy and thoroughness of written documents and memoranda;
- Progress of cases;
- Success in resolving cases including timely closing cases;
- Class participation, involvement in the clinic, meeting the minimum required clinic hours
Any student who is confused about his or her level of performance is encouraged to confer with the Clinic Director, Associate Director or Supervising Attorney for clarification.
The Clinic handles tax controversies involving civil federal income or employment taxes. The clinic does not handle criminal or state matters, nor does it usually prepare any tax returns. Case assignments are made by the clinic director, associate director or supervising attorney. Cases coming to the clinic are most likely in one of the following five stages:
- Taxpayer has received an administrative notice.
- Taxpayer has received a statutory notice.
- Taxpayer has filed a petition with the U.S. Tax Court pursuant to the “small case” procedure and is seeking help with either settlement or litigation.
- Taxpayer has paid the tax and seeks to institute a refund suit in a district court or the Court of Federal Claims. In this situation, the taxpayer may have bypassed the opportunity for administrative appeal or has not filed a petition in U.S. Tax Court. The clinic does not file refund suits, but Legal Aid may do so.
- Taxpayer has failed to respond to administrative or statutory notices, tax has been assessed, and the matter has been transferred to collections. This type of case will be accepted where there is a substantive tax issue involved or where tax equity dictates it.
Students interested in registering for the clinic course must have successfully completed Basic Tax (Law 7095) and have an overall GPA of C+ or better.
After registering for the clinic course, forward the following information to the clinic secretary via e-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the clinic.
- Full name
- Social Security Number
- Current law school year (2L or 3L)
- Anticipated Graduation date from law school (month and year)
- Undergraduate Institution
- Undergraduate Major
- Tax Courses taken at the College of Law – including current courses
- Phones – Home, Work, Cell
- If employed – Full-Time or Part-time – number of hours
- Preferred e-mail address
- GSU login
- Panther Card number for access to the clinic
This information is necessary to obtain permission for students to practice before the IRS and to secure a CAF number. A CAF number allows students to file Power of Attorney forms in order to represent their clients before the IRS.
Students interested in obtaining more information about the opportunity to work in the clinic should contact the clinic Director or the Associate Director.
W. Edward ‘Ted’ Afield,
Information on complaints.