Steven Cooper and Tyler Eddington enjoy the challenge of working through complex tax scenarios and finding solutions. A shared interest in legal writing, creative problem-solving, and tax led this dynamic team of third-year law students to compete in the American Bar Association’s 20th Annual Law Student Tax Challenge (LSTC) in January 2021. In an impressive finish, Cooper and Eddington, coached by Professor Roberta Mann, took third place in the JD Division of this high-profile, national competition.
In the LSTC, competitor teams are given a complex business problem that might arise in tax practice. In the first phase of the competition, students draft a memorandum to the senior partner and a letter to their client to explain how they would resolve the matter. In the second phase, the top six written submissions are selected to advance to the semifinals where teams must present their findings to nationally renowned tax practitioners, government officials, and tax court judges. This year, Cooper and Eddington were selected from among 70 JD-student teams to advance to the semifinals. After a strong defense of their findings in the semifinals, the Oregon Law students advanced to the final round.
Cooper and Eddington credit their tax and legal research and writing courses, prior competition experience, and work experience for providing the foundational skills and knowledge required to compete in LSTC.
Mann coordinated practice rounds so Cooper and Eddington could prepare for the oral argument portion of the LSTC competition. Cooper and Eddington are grateful for the feedback they received from the practice rounds judges. “No matter how experienced your competition judge may be, they will ask different questions or see an issue from a new perspective,” Cooper said. “I credit our success in the competition to Professor Mann’s excellent coaching and the insightful feedback from our practice judges.”
Both Cooper and Eddington discovered they had a strong interest in tax law early in their law school career. These future tax practitioners structured their law school experience around developing and honing skills in legal writing and tax.
Eddington became interested in tax as an intern at the Oregon Tax Court after his first year of law school. Cooper became interested in tax in his second year of law school, when he took Mann’s Federal Income Tax I course. That semester, Eddington suggested they compete together during the 2019 LSTC – they did, and they were hooked.
Coming into their third-year of law school last fall, both Cooper and Eddington had gained more experience in tax. Cooper had worked for an estate planning firm. Eddington was an extern at the Statewide Taxpayer Clinic at Legal Aid Services of Oregon, where he learned about a tax issue that resurfaced in the LSTC competition. They both had taken Mann’s Federal Income Tax II course, where they honed their transactional tax and writing skills.
“Participating in the LSTC challenge was one of the most rewarding experiences in my law school career,” Cooper said. “It is an excellent way to practice real-world skills.”
“There’s so much value in participating in competitions like the LSTC,” Eddington added. “The task of learning the law, synthesizing research into writing, and developing a deeper understanding by explaining the analysis to the client, is the kind of experience that most prepares a law student for practice.”
Cooper will join Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt PC this fall through Schwabe’s Fall Clerkship Program. Eddington plans to pursue an LL.M. in tax at Georgetown University Law Center, with the goal of working on tax aspects of mergers and acquisitions.
By Kristie Gibson, Supervising Attorney/Instructor – Business Law Clinic