Law School’s Tax Clinic Has Best Year Yet

Student preparers helped more than 250 clients obtain $212,000 in refunds

Tax

The University of Mississippi School of Law Tax Clinic records best year to date.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Law VITA Tax Clinic continues to provide valuable work and service to the Oxford community, with this tax season bringing more success than ever.

Student preparers helped clients with 199 Federal e-files, 55 federal paper returns and 254 total returns this year, said Adrea Watford, student director of the clinic. These returns brought refunds totaling $212,145. Both the number of returns and the refund amount are up from last year.

“I think our number is slightly higher this year because last year was our first year operating as a full-service VITA site, and word about our service hadn’t had the opportunity to spread,” Watford said.

Watford serves as the liaison between the school and its Internal Revenue Service agent. She plans, organizes, supervises and promotes all aspects of the clinic.

The VITA program is an overall initiative of the IRS, with the law school’s clinic managing this particular site. The clinic serves Oxford-area residents with a combined household income of $52,000 or less. It files federal and state returns electronically.

“This is truly an amazing accomplishment for 12 students and one professor,” said Debbie Bell, a UM professor of law who manages all the school’s clinical programs. “It returns money to the community and provides a much-needed service.”

Student preparers also can be certified at three levels: basic, intermediate and advanced. In conjunction with their law school coursework, students are required to be certified through the advanced level. They may then receive additional certification for more complex returns, including those involving cancellation of debt, health savings accounts, military, international and foreign student certifications.

“This year, we had volunteers who received each certification, so we were equipped to prepare a multitude of returns,” Watford said.

At the clinic, clients were asked to complete an intake form. They then sat with a preparer, whose work was checked by a quality reviewer. Once that was complete, an e-file was created, the return was printed and the client authorized the e-file.

“This is incredibly beneficial for Oxford because there are several low-income residents who are intimidated by the tax filing process,” Watford said. “We were able to alleviate some of that pressure and make return filing easier for them.”

Besides the community service aspect, the clinic is one of the law school’s many programs to provide hands-on experience for students, said Donna Davis, an associate professor of law who helps supervise the clinic and teaches Tax I.

“The clinic gives these students an opportunity to build so many new skills,” she said. “They are applying and explaining what they are learning in a tangible way.”

The clinic requires dedication from its students, who engage in class time, plus certification, as well as the actual work hours spent in the clinic. This year’s group prepared returns two afternoons a week from February to April.

“This year’s group was fantastic,” Davis said. “I was impressed with their commitment, their willingness to work and their compassion. I am just so proud of them.”

Ole Miss Law Moot Court Ranked 14th in Nation

Year included three national championships, two other finalist teams

Members of the 14th-ranked Ole Miss Law Moot Court program.

Members of the 14th-ranked Ole Miss Law Moot Court program.

OXFORD, Miss. – The final moot court rankings are in, and the University of Mississippi School of Law placed 14th in the nation for 2014. With three national championship teams and two other squads finishing as national semifinalists and quarterfinalists, the law school expected a strong finish.With a top 15 ranking among approximately 175 law schools with moot court programs, the School of Law earned an invitation to the Moot Court National Championship, set for January 2015 in Houston.”Being ranked among the top programs in the country demonstrates that our students can compete with anyone,” said Matthew Hall, senior associate dean and faculty adviser to the moot court board. “Earning this ranking with five separate teams demonstrates the extraordinary depth of talent at Ole Miss.”The ranking, compiled by University of Houston Law Center, is based on scores from moot court competitions around the country. In moot court, law students submit written briefs and then perform mock supreme court arguments to panels of expert judges.This year’s nationally-ranked Ole Miss teams are:- National Champions at the Pace National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition

- National Champions at the Gabrielli National Family Law Moot Court Competition

- National Champions at the National Professional Responsibility Moot Court Competition 

- National Semifinalists at the Prince Evidence Moot Court Competition

- National Quarterfinalists at the Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition

“This has been an amazing year for the moot court board and our ranking as 14th best program in the country would not have possible without the help of so many truly dedicated people,” said Irving Jones, chair of the school’s moot court board.

For each competition, two or three students spend weeks writing a brief. Then, with the help of student, professor and practitioner coaches, the team practices for oral arguments.

“Winning three national championships and placing well in several others has been incredibly rewarding, and I could not be prouder of the way we represented Ole Miss on a national level,” Jones said.

In addition to the teams that earned points in the ranking system, the moot court board fielded seven other teams and claimed a semifinalist spot at the National Cultural Heritage Law Moot Court Competition and a quarterfinalist spot at the Rendigs Products Liability Moot Court Competition.

The moot court board is not the only program at the Ole Miss law school enjoying success. The school’s negotiation board also won a national championship at the 2014 National Transactional LawMeets, the country’s largest contract negotiation and drafting competition. Students on the law school’s three journals have also enjoyed success, producing some 40 student articles in journals at the school and 20 student articles in law reviews around the country in the last two years.

“There is a lot of talent here at the law school, and given the support for our advocacy programs, I am certain our success will continue,” Jones said.

Fourth National Championship Underscores Law School’s Success

Student team bests squads from 13 other finalist schools

Patrick Everman, chair of the Negotiation Board and student coach; Drew Taggart; Brad Cook; and Professor Mercer Bullard, faculty coach

Patrick Everman, chair of the Negotiation Board and student coach; Drew Taggart; Brad Cook; and Professor Mercer Bullard, faculty coach

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Law continues to pile on the accolades, recently winning its fourth national championship this year.

The latest championship, coming at the hands of Brad Cook and Drew Taggart, both third-year law students, was captured at the 2014 National Transactional LawMeets Competition April 4 in New York City.

Cook and Taggart, from Stonewall and Madison, respectively, beat 13 other national finalist teams including Boston College, Cornell University, Emory University and University of Tennessee, and won one of seven regional competitions involving 84 teams to earn a spot at nationals.

“This victory powerfully reflects the strength of the student body at the School of Law, as you can see from the quality of the other teams at the national finals in New York,” said Matthew Hall, senior associate dean and adviser to the moot court board.

“It represents an enormous success for Brad and Drew, who poured hours into this competition, but it is also a product of the efforts of the entire Negotiation Board, Professor Mercer Bullard and of the team. We are so proud of all of them.”

The national rounds were hosted by Sullivan & Cromwell LLP’s New York office. The competition asked teams to represent one of two sides in drafting and negotiating an acquisition of a biotechnology company. Over the past several months, the students drafted agreements, interviewed their clients and marked up opposing teams’ drafts. The national rounds of the competition culminated with rounds of face-to-face negotiations April 3-4.

“The problem was released mid-December and a lot of work was put in speaking with attorneys figuring out what to put in the acquisition,” Taggart said. “It was one of the most effective practical experiences I’ve had as a law student.”

Fourteen senior practitioners served as judges at the national rounds, hailing from workplaces such as Safeguard Scientifics, Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, Pfizer, Rothschild Inc. and Bloomberg Law, among others.

“Some of the most encouraging words we received were from the judges who said they were willing to put us up against some of their fifth- and sixth-year associates,” Taggart said. “That was unbelievably encouraging.”

The UM law school’s Business Law Institute provides Taggart and other students with opportunities such as this. The institute, whose mission is “to train great business lawyers,” ties together a number of initiatives including:

- A Business Law certificate

- Negotiation Board that fields several intercollegiate competition teams

- 1L Skill Session course devoted to Contract Drafting and Negotiation

- Upper-level courses on Lawyers as Entrepreneurs, Client Interviewing and Counseling, and How to Do a Film Deal

- Transactional and Taxpayer Assistance Clinics

- Externships with governmental agencies that regulate business

- The Mississippi Business Law Reporter, a brand-new journal

- Business Law Network, a student group that recently organized the inaugural Business Law Conference

This structure, in combination with victories such as this latest triumph, seems to set Ole Miss law students apart.

“It’s a great opportunity for our students to work with faculty very closely, to write and to argue,” said Richard Gershon, the school’s dean. “This fourth championship was at Sullivan & Cromwell, one of the top law firms in the world, and our students were chosen to be the best. That says a lot.”

Taggart agrees with the significance of the win.

“My favorite part about this whole experience was learning that we can compete with anyone nationally,” he said. “I definitely learned people respect us.”

Famed Civil Rights Leader to Speak at Law Commencement

U.S. Rep. John Lewis recognized as one of the nation's equal rights pioneers

Lewis

U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Law welcomes U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) as the featured speaker at the school’s graduation, set for 11 a.m. May 10 in the Grove.

Lewis will speak at the law school’s individual ceremony, which follows the main university Commencement at 9 a.m.

“Congressman Lewis is a hero of the civil rights movement,” said Richard Gershon, law school dean. “He is a great speaker, and I know our graduates will benefit from him being here.”

Lewis, often called one of the most courageous people of the civil rights movement, is known for his efforts in protecting and securing human rights and civil freedoms. He is a nationally recognized leader and was one of the main players in the March on Washington in 1963.

“Lawyers can accomplish a great deal to build a more fair, more just society, and my history is living proof of their ability to help transform America for the better,” Lewis said. “I feel very honored to be asked to deliver the commencement address at the University of Mississippi law school.”

Lewis is the winner of numerous awards, including the highest civilian honor granted by President Barack Obama, the Medal of Freedom, as well as the Lincoln Medal from the historic Ford’s Theatre, the Golden Plate Award given by the Academy of Excellence and the Preservation Hero award given by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

He is senior chief deputy whip for the Democratic Party in leadership in the House, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, a member of its Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, and ranking member of its Subcommittee on Oversight.

“As a member of Congress, he has had an impact on the law and has worked to make sure that every citizen enjoys the rights and protections afforded by the U.S. Constitution,” Gershon said.

The law school will graduate 152 students at the ceremony, which includes the keynote speaker, an address by Gershon, and an address by Marcus Williams, the law school student body president. Mississippi Bar President Guy Mitchell will also speak to graduates.

For more information about the law school’s commencement, please visit the law school’s commencement page.

Ole Miss Law Makes History with Third National Title

Win makes third championship this year, a first in school history

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Law made history this weekend by grabbing its third moot court national championship this year, the first time the law school has achieved such a milestone.

Second-year students David Fletcher of Jackson and Brett Grantham of Corinth, along with third-year Will Widman of Birmingham, Ala., won the National Professional Responsibility Moot Court Competition at Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.

“This level of repeated success is really an extraordinary testament to both the depth and quality of our advocacy programs and our student body,” said Richard Gershon, the school’s dean. “Further, it demonstrates the commitment of our faculty to national-caliber instruction – and not just in the traditional classroom.”

The win came just weeks after national championships were obtained at the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition and the Gabrielli National Family Law Moot Court Competition, both in New York. Ole Miss has won the environmental law championship three times in the past four years.

“This year has been a true testament to what we can accomplish when we work hard together from beginning to end,” said Irving Jones, chairman of the law school’s moot court board. “I am very proud to be a part of this organization and also very proud of how we have represented this university.”

The professional responsibility team competed against several nationally ranked moot court teams, including Chicago-Kent, Stetson and Florida Coastal in the final round. Widman won the Best Oralist Award in the final round and the team won the Best Brief Award for the respondent, which made them first seed going into the elimination rounds.

“We had been working on this problem since November, so it was a relief that all of the work that the team put in definitely paid off,” Fletcher said. “We’ve been mooting every day since February, twice a day during spring break, and even in Indianapolis with each other. If anything, I’ve learned what people mean when they say you can never be too prepared.”

The competition included a brief submission and oral arguments. Each brief was scored by a panel of judges to compile an average brief score, which was used throughout the competition.

During the preliminary rounds, each team’s score was determined by combining the brief (35 percent) and oral argument (65 percent) scores. During the elimination rounds, teams were scored solely on their oral argument performance, which were judged on reasoning and logic; ability to answer questions; persuasiveness; knowledge and use of the facts; knowledge and use of the controlling law; and courtroom demeanor and professionalism, according to McKinney School of Law.

“These three guys worked incredibly hard for weeks, through spring break, and beat Florida Coastal in the final round,” Jones said. “Winning this competition is an amazing achievement, and we are so proud of them for their success and dedication to the board.”

Ole Miss Law Moot Court Team Wins National Championship

Title is third in four years for law school team

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Caroline Shepard, Professor David Case and Irving Jones pictured with John Hulsey’s painting of Storm King Mountain, which commemorates one of the pivotal court decisions inaugurating the field of environmental law. The original painting serves as the traveling trophy each year and goes home with the winner of the competition.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Law took first place at the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition, held Feb. 22 at Pace Law School in White Plains, N.Y. The victory marks the third national championship in four years for the law school.

The school’s team, composed of second-year law student Caroline Shepard of Milton, Ga. and third-year law student Irving Jones of Washington, D.C., defeated 75 other law schools, including Yale and Indiana University in the semifinal round and LSU and the University of Utah in the final round.

According to Pace’s website, the competition is the largest interschool moot court competition in the nation, regularly attracting more than 200 students from various law schools to compete and 200 attorneys to serve as judges.

“The Pace competition is one of the oldest, largest and most prestigious law school moot court competitions in the country,” said David Case, the team’s coach and UM associate professor of law. “Winning a third national championship demonstrates that students of the Ole Miss law school can compete at the very highest level nationally.”

The competition tests skills in appellate brief writing and oral advocacy on issues taken from real cases. Before the competition, teams write and file a brief for one of three respective parties’ legal positions, and then the oral phase of the competition begins in February, where each team must argue all three sides, taking a different side during each of the three preliminary rounds. The teams with the highest combined scores for both the written brief and oral argument advance.

Shepard won the Best Oralist Award in first preliminary round, and Jones won in the second and third preliminary rounds. Judging the final round of the competition were the Honorable Lynn Adelman, judge of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Wisconsin; the Honorable Malachy E. Mannion, judge of the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Pennsylvania; and the Honorable Randolph Hill, judge of the Environmental Appeals Board of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“The entire law school community is proud of this championship,” said Richard Gershon, UM law dean. “Professors Case and Showalter-Otts have coached three different sets of students to the national championship at the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition. This is an indication of the strength of our advocacy program, in general.”

Coaches include Case and Stephanie Showalter Otts, both professors at the UM School of Law. Case is a nationally recognized scholar on environmental regulation and management topics, and holds a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies: environmental law, management and policy from Vanderbilt University. Otts is director of the National Sea Grant Law Center, a program that works to ensure the wise stewardship of marine resources through research, education, outreach and technology transfer.

For more information, contact Jenny Kate Luster at jkluster@olemiss.edu or 662-915-3424. For more information on programs at the UM School of Law, go to http://law.olemiss.edu/.

Expungement Clinic Set for UM School of Law

Participants can learn more about possibility of removing convictions from their records

UM School of Law

OXFORD, Miss. –The University of Mississippi School of Law is hosting an expungement clinic Feb. 22 for anyone interested in finding out how to erase their criminal record.

Set for 10 a.m.-noon in Room 1078 of the law center, the clinic is sponsored by the Magnolia Bar Association, the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project and the School of Law’s Pro Bono Initiative and Black Law Students Association.

An expungement is the process of legally destroying, obliterating or striking out records or information in files, computers and other depositories related to criminal charges.Read the story …

Law School to Host Screening of New Independent Thriller

Film explores growing global concerns over privacy and technology

University of Mississippi School of Law

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Law will host a public screening of a futuristic psychological and political thriller that explores legal issues surrounding a speculative new medical technology that can read people’s memories in video form.

“Justice Is Mind,” an independently produced Hollywood film, takes a look at what happens when a new technology provides evidence that a person has committed murder. The screening is set for 3 p.m. Monday (Oct. 14) in the UM law school, Room 1078.

Inspired by a 2009 “60 Minutes” segment that addressed mind-reading technology, “Justice Is Mind” premiered Tuesday (Oct. 8) at the Boston University School of Law. The film is produced, directed and written by Mark Lund, an award-winning magazine publisher and award-nominated screenwriter.

“Having ‘Justice Is Mind’ start its law school tour with such prestigious law schools and legal scholars is a great beginning to a film that revolves around new science and law,” Lund said.

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Law School’s Pro Bono Initiative Sets Free Legal Clinic

Event to help low-income Lafayette County residents with family law matters

Civil Law Clinic

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi program that provides free legal assistance to low-income people is teaming with the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyer Project for a clinic to help qualifying Lafayette county residents with family law matters.

The clinic, set for 1-4 p.m. Sept. 5 at the UM School of Law, will help participants prepare court documents for divorce, custody, child support, name changes and emancipations. The event is organized by the law school’s Pro Bono Initiative.

Attorneys and law students will be available to help income-eligible persons to draw up the necessary court documents and to explain how to present their cases in court. Participation is limited to Lafayette County residents with an annual income of less than $14,363 for an individual, less than $19,388 for a household of two, or less than $29,438 for a household of four.

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Law School to Host Legal Program on MPB

Faculty and guests will discuss newsworthy legal issues

In Legal Terms

In Legal Terms

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Law is preparing to launch a new radio program, “In Legal Terms,” with Mississippi Public Broadcasting. The show debuts July 2 and will air at 10 a.m. Tuesdays, featuring faculty members and guests providing expert commentary on newsworthy legal issues.

Ole Miss law dean Richard Gershon and Matthew Hall, associate dean for academic affairs, will be two of the experts regularly featured. Court trials, Supreme Court arguments, hearings and other legal topics will all be covered.

“MPB is a great resource of information for the state and region,” Gershon said. “We wanted to take a leadership role in providing information on the law, because law affects everyone. The law school is proud to partner with MPB in this effort.”

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