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April 30, 2013

Darrell Rico Doss ’95 Conquers Capitol Hill

Oregon Law graduate Darrell Doss has found his center in a world of constant flux: Capitol Hill. Doss works as Economic Policy Counsel for Texas Congresswoman Sheila Lee Jackson, writing legislation, interpreting court rulings and advising her on legal matters affecting the economy, housing and taxation. Under one of the “toughest bosses on capitol hill,” Doss enjoys navigating the complex challenges and unpredictability his job brings him.

“You don’t grasp it until you talk with people,” said Doss. “It dawns on you that, “Hey, this is a really neat career.” 

Doss didn’t always envision himself working in the realm of politics. Although he’s held an interest in the stock market throughout his life, he initially wanted to become an international lawyer dealing in foreign affairs. In college, Doss studied abroad in France, and later started a small business while still at Oregon Law in 1994 selling an educational tool for foreign students. But as he progressed through his academic and professional career, he was pulled inexorably back toward his Chicago roots in the political sphere, and found himself living and working in Washington, D.C. It’s a decision he hasn’t regretted.

Doss grew up in Chicago’s Southside and earned his B.A. at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, where he served on the Student Affairs Advisory Committee. He then did peace-justice work with the American Friends Service Committee, where he met two folks from Oregon Law who said good things about the school. He decided to become a Law Duck and joined the school’s Black Law Student Association. He was part of an international moot court program, and became one of the first students to participate in Oregon Law’s business certification program. Professors Nancy Shurtz, Margie Paris, Dom Vetri, Ibrahim Gassama and former professors Garrett Epps, Steve Bender and Laird Kirkpatrick were large influences on Doss’ academic career. He still calls his professors to catch up and discuss current legal matters.

After graduating from Oregon Law in 1995, Doss went on to earn his LL.M. in Taxation at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle. In 2008, he won the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division scholarship, which is offered to encourage the participation of minority, government, military service, private sector and solo or small firm attorneys in the Young Lawyer’s Division of the ABA. Following his LL.M., he earned a prestigious Congressional Black Caucus Fellowship where he served with the Honorable Carol-Moseley-Braun, the first African-American woman elected to the United States Senate, working on her Senate Finance Committee issues, and later worked for The Honorable Judge Gibson in the U.S. Court of Claims.

Before serving under Rep. Jackson Lee, Doss had provided tax counsel to the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, former chair of The U.S. Congress’ Ethics Committee, doing her Ways and Means Committee work. Jones passed away unexpectedly in 2008, and with no employer, Doss’ job disappeared, but not his moxie. Death, scandal and a new election cycle can all end a career on Capitol Hill, but with his talent and experience Doss was able to bounce back and now serves in his current position as counsel for Rep. Jackson Lee. Doss also served as Counsel in the Senate for Mark Udall of Colorado before going on to serve a brief hitch as tax counsel at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Recently, Doss penned an article for the Maryland State Bar's TaxTalk Publication, titled “The Implications of the Fiscal Cliff”. Doss has an interest in constitutional law and securities regulation, but mostly prefers the vagaries of taxation. And in an effort to keep abreast, he is now working on an ABA Draft Comment Letter on Ways and Means committee Chair Dave Camp’s Derivative Taxation Proposal.

Doss’ days as counsel to a U.S. representative are as busy as they are varied. A typical day might include participating in a tax reform conference, attending a Supreme Court case on voting rights and analyzing how the ruling might affect the economy, interacting with community organizers and talking with reporters. When Doss does find a moment to spare, he plays tennis, studies Chinese (he speaks French and Japanese) and volunteers with nonprofit organizations. In 2012, he helped organize a tennis tournament to raise money for Arts For The Aging (AFTA), an organization that promotes healthy aging. Doss is currently an AFTA board member, and has also served on the Young Professional’s group, Gen-O, for the Washington National Opera, where he has been known to enjoy a deeply-discounted opera ticket.

For law students seeking to cut their teeth in Washington, D.C., Doss advises that students apply for internships on Capitol Hill or in a local legislature early on during their academic studies. He also suggests students learn the lay of the land by reading the newspaper to keep pace with what’s happening in Washington, and the other world capitals, particularly since it’s much easier to read six or seven newspapers a day when most are online. Finally, he tells students to “be persistent.” Students looking for work or internships may need to approach ten representatives’ or senators' offices before they find an open position they can fill.

“It can be a fickle place and stern environment but it is one of the few jobs you will find high-salaried attorneys leaving their lucrative white-shoe practices to work in cubicles next to 19-year-old interns,” said Doss.

Doss notes that the work is demanding and intense, but incredibly rewarding for those with the intellectual stamina to manage such legislation as the Dodd-Frank, the Affordable Care Act or inscrutable Congressional budget resolutions.

“There are 535 members of Congress,” says Doss. “Just keep going down the line.”

Doss would like to own a small sustainable working ranch in the future, but for now he wakes up every day ready to, as he puts it, “bite the a— off of a bear, legally speaking.”

Like Doss, students should be tenacious, ambitious and flexible when searching for jobs. Those who succeed can join Doss in captaining a thrilling and fruitful career in a world where every day is unlike the last.

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