Before she entered UCLA School of Law this fall, Nicole Casey earned undergraduate and master’s degrees in business from USC and landed a coveted position as an associate at Deloitte. There, she prepared complex tax returns for individuals, partnerships and corporations, often alongside attorneys who showed her the value of applying a law degree to a career in tax.
So when it came time for her next move, Casey turned to the nationally renowned tax program at UCLA Law. A deciding factor, she said, was the school’s offer of the Thomas A. Kirschbaum Scholarship in Tax Law, which goes to the most promising students in the field and brings with it connections to a tight-knit group of alumni, faculty and students.
“It’s one of the reasons why I came here, it definitely put me over the top,” Casey said of the scholarship. “The connections and networking that I get through the Kirschbaum Scholarship are just great.”
The scholarship, which is in its seventh year, attracts students who are poised to make an impact as leaders in tax study and practice. Recipients enjoy a substantial financial award and inclusion in a vibrant network of premier tax attorneys and scholars, who share insights and career prospects.
“Tax law is one of the most valuable types of law in the market and for public policy, but one that few incoming students have a full appreciation of,” said Ryan Shumacher, who parlayed his status as a Kirschbaum scholar into a rare summer associate position at a law firm after his first year of law school. Now, he is an associate at Rodriguez, Horii, Choi and Cafferata in Los Angeles — an opportunity that he owes to the scholarship’s “pipeline of mentorship and support.”
Creating that pipeline was the goal of retired Latham and Watkins partner and UCLA Law alumnus James D.C. Barrall when he spearheaded the scholarship’s founding in 2011 to honor the memory of his former colleague and fellow alumnus Kirschbaum, a fixture in the Los Angeles tax law community who died in a sailing accident in local waters in 2010. Barrall saw the scholarship as a fitting recognition of Kirschbaum’s effort to give back and train the next generation of attorneys.
Barrall observed those characteristics first-hand, when they worked together at Ervin Cohen and Jessup and, later, after Barrall joined Latham, and Kirschbaum at Irell and Manella.
“On the very last deal that Tom and I worked on together, on opposite sides of the table, Tom took it upon himself to spend time with one of my young associates, over a period of weeks on the phone, educating him on the tax law and discussing complex issues,” recalled Barrall, who is now senior fellow in residence at UCLA Law’s Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy. “At the end of the deal, my associate told me what Tom had done and how much he appreciated it. This epitomized Tom, his love of the law, his intellectual curiosity, and his humanity. His spirit has inspired our scholarship and lives on in others, who are now giving back.”
To date, the scholarship has been awarded to seven UCLA Law students. Those Kirschbaum scholars have founded the Tax and Estate Planning Law Association at UCLA Law, enjoyed regular in-depth mentorship luncheons, and secured jobs at leading firms, including Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld; Latham and Watkins; Paul Hastings; Sidley Austin; and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati.
In addition, Shumacher pointed out, “The scholarship gives recipients direct and early access to UCLA Law’s incredible tax faculty, which opens opportunities for research collaboration, attending conferences and gaining valuable resources.”
UCLA Law’s tax program is widely recognized among the nation’s best. Each year, it co-hosts the field’s seminal gathering, the NYU/UCLA Tax Policy Symposium. And in the latest U.S. News and World Report tally of the country’s best programs in the specialty, it ranked No. 7.
For Casey, the doors to UCLA Law’s rich tax tradition are now wide open, and she is gaining the access and knowledge that she needs to be a tax lawyer who will make a difference.
As a Kirschbaum Scholar, she said, “You really feel like you’re part of a family.”