Associate Professor of Law Cassady “Cass” Brewer claims to be a little different from other law professors. The main reason he says, is because it wasn’t until he was 50 years old that he decided he wanted to teach.
“I look like I am an old dog,” he laughed. “But I am not, really.”
The tax professor teaches a wide array of courses, from Basic Federal Income Taxation to the Law of Social Enterprise. Brewer brings a pragmatic perspective to his teaching because he practiced law for almost 25 years. Before joining the faculty at Georgia State Law, he had worked up the ranks to become a partner at Morris, Manning & Martin.
While tax may not be an appealing topic to everyone, Brewer knew while in law school at the University of Arkansas that tax law was his future. He went to New York University for his LL.M. in tax after graduating from law school, which opened his eyes to a much bigger world.
“I was around 300 students who were from all over the country, all of whom were passionate about tax,” Brewer said. “I was looking around thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I thought I was the only one’.”
As Brewer explains, tax is a giant puzzle that permeates every area of the law. Whether it’s divorce, selling a house, starting a business or non-profit, etc., tax is implicated. If tax law merely was about “doing the math,” there would be no need for tax lawyers. The job of a tax lawyer is to advise clients about how to arrange the pieces of the puzzle in their favor. Brewer uses an analogy to describe this concept to his students.
“Being a tax lawyer is a little bit like being a GPS,” Brewer said. “Clients tell us what they want to do, whether it is to start a business, leave assets to their children, you name it. The tax lawyers sit down and say ‘well, you can do it the way 99% of people do it, which is very straight-forward— similar to the first route that pops up on Google Maps – which usually is the most common route. Or we can take one of the many side roads – none of which is wrong or illegal –you’re just being smarter about how to get from point A to point B than the average person’.”
Brewer enjoys the intellectual freedom teaching allows. He is free to study and write about the areas of tax law in which he’s most interested. He says that much of his attention these days goes to researching and writing about recent federal tax developments. Since the end of 2017, it’s been an incredibly dynamic area of the law. Brewer also focuses his research on partnership and LLC taxation, social enterprise, and non-profit organizations.
“Non-profits are not well understood, but yet the sector is huge,” Brewer said. “Think about hospitals and schools. They don’t get a lot of attention sometimes but people are amazed when I discuss their influence on our economy. It’s massive.”
Some may think that teaching law might be a change of pace from practicing law, but Brewer puts in an equal amount of work. Just as a law firm’s success goes hand-in-hand with its client’s success, he says his students’ achievements are the biggest marker of his growth as a professor.
“Joining Georgia State Law was one of the best decisions I ever made,” he said. “I felt like I had done mostly everything I could do in the private practice of law, and on top of that there was this feeling that I had an obligation to give something back. I can give back this way. I can share my experience; I can share my knowledge; and I’ve had a blast.”
Written by Mara Thompson