Much time and effort could be saved, and the same worthwhile goals accomplished, by moving Introduction to Federal Taxation, as many of us teach it, into the first year. What's in the package? Constitutional law analysis? Yes. Administrative law principles? Yes. Statutory and regulatory analysis? Yes. Application of law to facts? Yes. Problem solving? Yes. Planning to avoid problems? Yes. Discussion of ethical considerations? Yes. Awareness of client needs? Yes. Development of interviewing and counselling techniques? Yes. Attention to international issues? Yes. Incorporation of business, social, economic, and political facets of the topics? Yes.I will now construe this suggestion as a serious proposal for reforming the first year curriculum.
Jim Maule isn't the first person to suggest the inclusion of a basic income tax course in the mandatory first-year curriculum. Many, many years ago, back when she and I shared an employer, Karen Burke made the same suggestion to me. There's much to recommend the idea. Most students will take basic tax eventually; those who do not almost surely should. Jim and Karen are right: the course is filled with potential. It has everything a law school course should have, plus the added bonus of being relevant to the future professional interests of virtually every law school graduate. As an inveterate generalist, I've always been fascinated by the idea of adding tax to my teaching repertoire. It covers the full range of business law issues and provides the perfect platform for considering, at the highest manageable levels of abstraction, the very purposes of government. In teaching law students, we should happily accept wisdom from whatever source derived.
There is only one problem. Unfortunately, I think it's insurmountable.
H. Vogel, Suicide of Brutus (an illustration in 1 John Clark Ridpath, History of the World (1885))
For purposes of deciding whether to include income tax -- or admiralty or worker's compensation or insurance or any other substantive subject -- to the first-year curriculum as our students' introduction to legislation and legal process, none of this matters. What does matter is whether we can use tax or any other substantive subject as a sneaky back door to teaching a rigorous course in legislation, legal process, or "the administrative state." In my experience, we can't.