The Philip C. Cook Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic allows students at Georgia State Law to act as attorneys while assisting taxpayers disputing with the Internal Revenue Service. The experience helps prepare students to thrive in variety of careers, including working for the government agency handling those taxpayer disputes.
Daniel McClendon (J.D. ’15) and Danielle Pollack (J.D. ’19) both participated in the Tax Clinic while at GSU Law and now work as attorneys for the IRS Office of Chief Counsel in Atlanta.
“It was nice knowing that I was helping people who normally wouldn’t get any help at all,” Pollack said about being in the Tax Clinic. “Being able to tell the taxpayer exactly what they needed to prove their case was great because they often don’t know where to start.”
As attorneys for the IRS Office of Chief Counsel, McClendon and Pollack mostly work on litigating cases for Tax Court, either preparing them for trial or settling before the court date. As attorneys for the IRS, it may appear that they are 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 is to get to the right answer,” McClendon said. “If that means conceding and settling a case, that’s fine as long as it is the right outcome under the law. If that meanings trying a case, that is good too. I like the freedom of working for the government where we work to get to the right answer. That freedom allows us to analyze things with a level head.”
Pollack interned for the IRS Office of Chief Counsel in Washington D.C. before being offered a position with the office in Atlanta and credits her experience at the Tax Clinic for landing the initial interview.
After graduating from GSU Law, McClendon earned an LL.M. in taxation from Georgetown University, then worked for two years at a firm doing tax litigation before getting to the Office of Chief Counsel.
While both have dedicated careers in tax law, it was the Tax Clinic that helped spark that interest. Along with exposing them to what a career in the field could look like, it strengthened key skills they continue to use daily.
“I was not interested in tax coming into law school, but when I took Federal Income Tax the Tax Clinic was mentioned and it sounded like a great opportunity,” McClendon said. “It’s a really good building block for practicing law, learning how to interact with clients and help them resolve their cases.”
Their roles allow them to stay connected with GSU Law, often getting the opportunity to work with current students in the clinic trying to resolve taxpayer cases. They’ve also participated as IRS attorneys when the Tax Clinic hosts Pro Bono Days.
“I immediately suggest taxpayers talk to the Tax Clinic as soon as possible,” Pollack said. “A lot of times, we believe that petitioners but without documentation, there’s nothing we can do, so the clinic is great for helping us get to the right answer.”
Written by Mara Thompson