Tax at Midlife

I am at the Association of Mid-Career Tax Professors (AMT) Annual Conference today and tomorrow, along with Surly co-bloggers Jennifer Bird-Pollan, Sam Brunson, and Stephanie Hoffer. The conference is hosted by Dennis Ventry and Darien Shanske at UC Davis. Sam, Stephanie, and I are on the organizing committee, along with Dennis and Brian Galle. The conference itself is, I think, Brian’s brainchild–thanks, Brian!

I’m presenting an early-stage piece called The Distributive Case against Offshore Tax Enforcement, which I hope to workshop more extensively over the fall and spring. Jennifer is presenting Taxes, Democracy, and Investment Treaties; Stephanie, Corporate Acquisitions and Integration; and Sam, Playthings of the Wealthy: RICs, Pease, and the AMT.

A question I keep asking myself is: What’s the mission of the AMT conference? Or more broadly, what should we be focusing on at this stage of our scholarly lives?

Back in the day when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I used to attend the still-extant Junior Tax Workshop, the goals were pretty clear: (1) create a supportive environment for pre-tenure tax professors to get robust feedback on law review article drafts from pre-tenure peers;  (2) support each other and give and receive advice in the process of getting tenure; and (3) make friends with the cohort most likely to be by your side for the remainder of your career/life.

At the mid-career stage of things, the goals seem a bit less clear. Obviously, the things we sought to achieve with Junior Tax are still massively important–the opportunity to get a close read of one’s work at an early stage continues to be invaluable. But there are some differences, I think: Just looking around, at least one of us is working on a book project, it seems like there are more co-authored pieces, and a few of us even went and started some sort of blog.

For me, I think there are three additional, distinctive goals:

  1. Encourage each other to fight boredom. Sometimes you shouldn’t mess with a formula that works, even if you are bored. (Especially if you are bored.)
  2. Encourage each other to be ambitious, to push boundaries, and to explore new forms of scholarship, publication, and communications. If you can’t take these risks post tenure, when can you ever do it? On the other hand, I always think it’s good to run your thinking by your peers, so you’re taking the right kinds of risks (or, at least, you’re designing your risky venture so that it yields the greatest potential upside!).
  3. Share knowledge about how new career directions you have explored have worked out. For example, new ventures into book publishing, new research methodologies, adventures in law school administration, encounters with graduate work, attempts at co-authorship. Learn from each others’ successes and failures.

I’m really excited to reconnect with old friends.

The full schedule and paper list should be on taxprof blog so we won’t recreate it, but the participant list is here:

Jordan Barry, Jennifer Bird-Pollan, Jake Brooks, Sam Brunson, Emily Cauble, Miranda Fleischer, Will Foster, Brian Galle, David Gamage, Stephanie Hoffer, Sarah Lawsky, Charlene Luke, Susie Morse, Shu-Yi Oei, Adam Rosenzweig, Darien Shanske, Dennis Ventry, David Walker


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