The Philip C. Cook Low Income Taxpayer Clinic enables Georgia State Law students to act as attorneys and assist taxpayers in dealing with the Internal Revenue Service. This experience helps students prepare for a variety of careers, including working for the government agency that handles these tax disputes.
Daniel McClendon (JD ’15) and Danielle Pollack (JD ’19) both attended the tax clinic while at GSU Law and now work as attorneys for the IRS Office of Chief Counsel in Atlanta.
“It was nice to know that I was helping people who normally got no help at all,” said Pollack of the tax clinic. “It was great to be able to tell taxpayers exactly what they needed to prove their case because they often don’t know where to start.”
As attorneys for the IRS Office of Chief Counsel, McClendon and Pollack work primarily on litigation for the tax court, either preparing them for trial or settling them before the court hearing. As lawyers for the IRS, they may appear to be working against the petitioner, but all parties are working towards the same goal.
“Our job is not necessarily to win every case in court. It’s about finding the right answer, ”said McClendon. “If that means admitting a case and settling it, that’s fine as long as it’s the right outcome under the law. If that means trying a case, that’s fine too. I like the freedom to work for the government we work in to find the right answer. This freedom allows us to analyze things with a flat head. “
Pollack interned with the IRS Office of Chief Counsel in Washington, DC before being offered a position in the Atlanta office, and credits her experience in the tax clinic for landing the first interview.
After graduating from HSU Law, McClendon earned an LL.M. He studied tax at Georgetown University and then worked in a tax litigation firm for two years before joining the Office of Chief Counsel.
While both have dedicated careers in tax law, it was the tax clinic that piqued that interest. Not only did they learn what a career in this field could look like, but they also strengthened the key skills that they continue to use on a daily basis.
“I wasn’t interested in having taxes come into law school, but when I took federal income tax there was a mention of the tax clinic and it sounded like a great opportunity,” McClendon said. “It’s a really good building block for exercising the law, learning how to deal with clients, and helping them resolve their cases.”
Their roles allow them to stay connected with HSE law and are often given the opportunity to work with current students in the clinic to resolve tax cases. They have also participated as IRS attorneys when the tax clinic hosts Pro Bono Days.
“I suggest that taxpayers speak to the tax clinic as soon as possible,” said Pollack. “Often we believe that petitioners cannot do anything without documentation. So the clinic is great for helping us find the right answer.”
Written by Mara Thompson