For Jocelyn Tau, partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, as a tax attorney for large energy companies you don’t just have to deal with taxes.
When corporate attorneys question Tau, who is based in Houston, about business transactions, she tries to think not only about the question they are asking, but also why they are asking it.
“Finding commercial solutions instead of just telling them the tax answer – I think that’s what makes a successful tax attorney,” she said.
Tau has advised on many large corporate transactions, including the 2020 agreement of 7-Eleven Inc. to acquire the Speedway chain of gas stations, including approximately 3,900 convenience stores, from Marathon Petroleum Corp. for $ 21 billion.
She essentially worked as a “right lieutenant” on the tax team for the deal, said Alison Chen, an associate who helped Tau recruit the company after previously working with her. Chen said Tau primarily chaired the negotiations, monitored and worked with a staff member to go through the documents related to the deal.
Tau also represented Genesis Energy LP in its 2019 agreements to acquire up to $ 350 million of preferred shares in its subsidiary Genesis Alkali Holdings Co.
Tau, who attended the University of Texas law school, found that oil and gas customers in particular don’t want to be wrapped up in engineering numbers.
“They need someone who is user-friendly, who understands their industry, understands the commercial aspects of business, and understands their sensibilities,” she said.
One thing that sets Tau apart among the junior partners is their ability to get involved from different people involved in a transaction, Chen said. Tau is capable of “not only being the geeky tax attorney and technical expert,” but “very good at facilitating discussion and building consensus,” said Chen.
While taxes may seem like a weedy, technical field, dew can sound philosophical when she talks about it. She described it not only as a revenue generating system, but also as a useful tool for creating incentives for various actors and shaping behavior. Thinking about the motivation behind a particular section of the tax code will help her understand them better, she said.
Tau attributed part of her success to her passion for her practice area.
“I really love tax law,” she said. “I think it’s great how structured it is, but also how you can use it to achieve goals that you want to achieve.”
Tau is also helping tremendously with the company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, Chen said. This includes helping young employees grow professionally and attracting a diverse group of lawyers to the firm.
“It’s not just the professionalism and technical expertise that she brings – it’s the whole-person approach,” said Chen.