The Philip C. Cook Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic at Georgia State College of Law is nationally recognized for the hundreds of cases it handles a year. While the clinic’s goal is to settle IRS disputes and recover taxpayer money, it’s also setting the students involved up for success.
Ernst & Young is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. In recent years, Georgia State Law alumni with experience in the Tax Clinic have become top choice recruits.
“We currently have about 20 Georgia State Law graduates working in our Atlanta tax practice,” said EY tax principal, Mark Mesler. “In the last 10 years, we have recruited around 50.”
Nikki Bhakhri (J.D. ’18) is one of the graduates to make that move. After being involved with the Tax Clinic for five semesters, she joined EY on the International Tax and Transaction Services team.
“I picked GSU for law school because of the Tax Clinic,” said Bhakhri. “It’s one of the best existing tax clinics and it handles such a huge volume of cases.”
Bhakhri says during her time with the clinic, she handled about 35 to 40 cases. She learned how to research efficiently, adapt to different audiences and manage time and caseloads.
“Overall I learned how to talk to clients, which is huge,” Bhakhri said. “There are times when I am calling a client by myself asking questions, and I know how to adapt or think on my feet and depending on how the client answers certain questions.”
Shivani Patel (J.D. ’19) is also in the International Tax and Transaction Services group at EY. She says the experience she gained from handling numerous clients and being able to understand tax law and regulation have gone far in her role.
“I had no idea of what all it meant to be in the legal field,” Patel said. “The Tax Clinic and externing at the IRS gave me a structured experience in which I felt comfortable asking questions and pushing myself to learn as much as possible because I knew I had professors and supervisors there helping me along the way.”
Mesler, who is also a GSU Law alum, says EY is interested in strong team players who support their colleagues in reaching their goals while also considering their own workload and development, and the Tax Clinic helps deliver that.
“The practice of law is the mastery of technical knowledge, but at the heart of it, it is about understanding people and being wise,” said Mesler. “You get those skills only through experience.”
The experience the Tax Clinic provides can help students obtain positions that would typically only go to students who had completed MTax or LLM studies, clinic director Ted Afield said.
“EY’s commitment to hiring so many Tax Clinic students straight out of law school is a strong testament to the type of training that our students receive in the clinic,” Afield said. “It enables them to ‘hit the ground running’ right off the bat and puts them on the path to a wonderfully fulfilling career in tax.”
Written by Mara Thompson