Tax and Estate Planning Curriculum

Tax law plays an important role in representing clients in a wide range of business and personal transactions as well as in advocating clients’ interests in litigation and before regulatory agencies and legislative bodies. Students who enter fields outside of tax law such as family law, corporate law, real estate development, entertainment law, white collar crime, labor or employment law, trusts and estates, or governmental relations will likely confront tax law issues on a regular basis. Those students who choose tax law as a practice area often find themselves specializing in fields within taxation, such as corporate tax, estate and gift taxation, employee benefits, international tax, nonprofit organizations, state and local tax, taxation of financial instruments, or partnership tax. Each year some students specializing in tax opt to continue their study of taxation after completing their J.D., by enrolling in a graduate LL.M. program immediately following law school or after a few years of legal practice. This overview is designed to give all students at the law school information regarding opportunities in tax law.

Introductory Course

In light of the importance of tax law in all areas of practice, all students should consider taking the introductory course, Federal Income Taxation, in their second year of law school. This course provides students with a general overview of the law of taxation, with a focus on the taxation of individuals. The course introduces basic concepts that apply to the taxation of businesses as well as to individuals.

Upper-Level Electives

After taking the introductory course, students considering a tax practice should take additional tax law electives, like Corporate Taxation, Taxation of Unincorporated Entities, and Estate and Gift Taxation. These courses provide students with a broad base of knowledge on which to launch a tax law career. Students considering a practice area outside of tax law, such as corporate law, for example, should take Corporate Taxation. Those considering a practice advising small businesses or real estate joint ventures should take Taxation of Unincorporated Entities. Those with a client group comprised of wealthy individuals and/or family-owned businesses should also take Estate and Gift Taxation. Some students will opt to take all of these courses.

Additional electives in the tax area include Tax Policy (which satisfies the upper-level writing requirement), Estate Planning, Non-Profit Organizations, and other tax courses offered on an occasional basis by adjunct or visiting professors. Federal Income Taxation should be taken prior to these courses, although not all of these upper level electives have formal prerequisites. We also recommend that students interested in a tax or estate planning practice consider taking Contract Drafting as their Law Skills IV course.

Tax courses are also essential preparation for a practice focused on Estate Planning. Students interested in estate planning should take Wills & Trusts and consider taking Corporate Taxation, Taxation of Unincorporated Entities, Estate and Gift Taxation, and Estate Planning, as well as non-tax courses such as Business Planning, Agency and Partnership, Real Estate Transfers and Finance.

Electives in Other Areas

A number of courses in other curricular areas are also helpful for students interested in tax law. These courses include Corporate Finance, Corporations, Mergers and Acquisitions, Business Planning, International Business Transactions, Employment Law, Bankruptcy, Secured Transactions, Agency and Partnership, Intellectual Property, Sales & Leases, Real Estate Transfers and Finance, Antitrust, Wills and Trusts, and Insurance Law.

Clinical Opportunities

Students interested in transactional law might consider enrolling in the Intellectual Property & Transactional Law Clinic. This clinic provides students with an opportunity to help start-up corporations form business entities, enter into licensing deals, or conduct other transactions that may involve tax issues.

Students interested in an externship should consider the Internal Revenue Service's Office of Chief Counsel, the United States Bankruptcy Court, or a spring in-house counsel placement with a corporation.

Dual Degree Program

Some law students pursue a joint J.D./M.B.A. degree with the University of Richmond's Robins School of Business. Applicants for the dual degree program must meet the admission standards of the law school and the graduate division of the business school. Students accepted into this program will be permitted to count 12 semester hours of work in the law school toward satisfaction of the degree requirements of the M.B.A. program, and 12 semester hours of work in the M.B.A. program toward satisfaction of the degree requirements of the law school. Accordingly, students can meet the requirements for both degrees in four years.