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C-M Law shines in tax challenge

By Deon Broyles

February 2, 2012

For the second consecutive year, Cleveland-Marshall Law tax students have reached the semi-final rounds in the National American Bar Association (ABA) Law Student Tax Challenge.

Selected as one of six J.D. semi-finalists, the two-person team of Charles Murphy, a 29-year-old second-year law student, and Benjamin Heidinger, a 26-year-old third-year law student, have successfully advanced to the competition’s oral defense rounds held at the Midyear Meeting in San Diego on February 17, 2012.

The ABA challenge, a tax planning and client-counseling competition requests that students submit a legal memorandum and a client-based correspondence concerning the consequence of a real-world business-planning problem.

The teams were presented a sophisticated tax problem in September and were required to submit a memorandum and written solution by November.

Based on the quality and depth of their submissions, six teams from the J.D. division and four teams from the LL.M. division were chosen as semi-finalists.

According to CSU law professor Deborah Geier, Cleveland State law students started competing in the competition in 2011 and placed well that year.

“Last year, there was a record 95 teams from 55 different law schools,” Geier said. “At the end of the day, we came in second in the nation out of 95 teams.”

Prof. Geier was involved with designing this year’s tax problem, and was unable to participate as a faculty sponsor.

“Because of an obvious conflict of interest, I couldn’t be the faculty sponsor for this year’s team,” she said, “so my new colleague John Plecnik stepped up to the plate as faculty sponsor.”

According to Plecnik, the students were required to turn in a 10-page memo and an up to two-page client letter that explains the team’s answers to various tax problems.

He explained that faculty sponsors are only able to point the students in the right direction.

“They have to do most of the footwork; they have to do all of the writing,” Plecnik said. “It really is the students’ achievement, and it’s very impressive that our students, two years in a row, were able to perform at that high level.”

Plecnik explained that the reason for C-M Law schools success is - a remarkably broad tax program that embraces a larger number of tax faculty members and a uniquely strong legal writing faculty.

Before faculty joined them, Murphy and Heidinger had never worked together.

Each member of the team was perusing interest in the competition individually.

“It was purely synthetic,” Murphy said, “Ben and I had never meet each other or even spoken before this competition.”

“We just both expressed interest to the advisor that we wanted to do this, and we got arranged together.”

According to the team, they have been studying and will be prepared to defend their assessment of the tax problem in the up and coming oral rounds.