In 2002, Brant Hellwig LLM ’00 was just halfway through a planned two-year stint in what’s now known as NYU Law’s Visiting Assistant Professor of Tax Law (VAP) program. Then the University of South Carolina School of Law came calling to offer him a tenure-track position—a testament to how being a VAP can open doors.
“[The program] was a huge benefit to me,” says Hellwig, who is now professor of tax law at NYU Law. “There’s a remarkably high success rate placing VAPs into tenure-stream positions at other schools,” he adds.
The Visiting Assistant Professor of Tax Law program, formerly known as the Acting Assistant Professor of Tax Law program, has been a successful launching pad for generations of tax law academics. VAPs typically spend two years at the Law School as full-time, non-tenure-track instructors. During their second year, they seek tenure-track positions in the law school academic job market. (See the list of recent VAPs and their current positions below.)
While at NYU Law, VAPs devote considerable time to developing their research agendas and working on their scholarship. In addition to teaching a course in the Graduate Tax Program each semester, VAPs serve as assistant editors of the Tax Law Review. VAPs benefit from the tax faculty’s mentorship as they develop their scholarship and prepare for the academic job market. They also participate in faculty workshops and conferences, including the renowned Tax Policy and Public Finance Colloquium.
Jon Endean and Rita Julien, the current VAPs, bring the total number of participants in the history of the program to 78. Both Endean and Julien say that the advice of their JD professors, as well as the reputation of both NYU Law’s Graduate Tax Program and the VAP program, created a powerful draw.
“NYU is exceptional in terms of the depth and breadth of scholars on the faculty,” says Endean, who was a tax associate at Covington & Burling after graduating from Yale Law School. “That’s something that’s really special. I think it’s sometimes easy…to just walk past colleagues in the hall and forget that this is a world-class scholar in their field, this is the world’s preeminent expert in fill-in-the-blank.”
He cites the Tax Policy and Public Finance Colloquium as especially valuable, allowing him to see “what an academic discussion looks like in practice: this is how people engage with legal scholarship, these are the sorts of questions that are on people’s minds, these are some of the key issues people keep coming back to.”
Julien’s research specializations include international taxation—encompassing tax treaties, European Union tax law, and efforts to address base erosion and profit shifting—as well as the intersection between tax law and attempts to counteract corruption and illicit financial flows. Julien received an LLM in European and international tax law from the University of Luxembourg; a doctoral degree in business law from the Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU); and an LLM in taxation from Georgetown University Law Center. She also served as a research and teaching associate at WU’s Institute for Austrian and International Tax Law.
“By the time I applied, I was already aware of what a career-defining opportunity this was, because those whose scholarship I had been reading and citing for years, so many of them had been a part of the program,” Julien explains.
Julien says she has relished being able to expand on her previous teaching experience by teaching Taxation of Property Transactions during both semesters of this academic year, as well as the chance to interact with the faculty’s international law experts. “The reputation of NYU in international taxation is unparalleled,” she says. “It is known everywhere you go in the world. It’s a huge stamp of credibility.”
In the VAP program’s early days, it often acted as a direct pipeline to NYU Law’s tenure-track faculty. Among those who transitioned to full-time faculty were Professor Noël Cunningham LLM ’75, Professor Emeritus Brookes Billman LLM ’75, Professor Emeritus John Steines LLM ’78, and Professor Emerita Laurie Malman ’71. Former VAP Victor Zonana (1969-71) was on the full-time faculty until 1981, and continued to teach as an adjunct until 2018, while another former VAP, Professor Emeritus John Peschel, who passed away in December, spent some time in private practice and as a professor at Tulane Law School before joining NYU Law’s tenured faculty in 1978.
Carlyn McCaffrey ’67, LLM ’74, a leading tax practitioner who now specializes in tax and estate planning for high-net-worth individuals as a partner at McDermott Will & Emery, was a VAP from 1970 to 1972. She accepted a tenure-track position, then took a leave of absence after two years to practice. McCaffrey enjoyed the work so much that she remained a practitioner, but she continued to teach as an adjunct at NYU Law for decades.
“It gave me a real start in my career,” McCaffrey says of the VAP program. “I was encouraged not just to teach but to do some professional writing and speaking in CLE programs. I started getting a name.” Teaching trusts and estates as well as tax helped her find the professional niche she occupies today, she explains. Also, her academic experience yielded dividends in private practice: “I knew the law, and it was a tremendous advantage in practice to have a really sound grounding in the law that is important to this particular practice area.”
Since the VAP program began in 1961, its alumni have taken tenure-track or tenured teaching positions at the law schools of the University of Virginia, Cornell, Northwestern, UCLA, the University of Texas, USC, the University of Florida, the University of North Carolina, George Washington University, Arizona State University, George Mason University, and UC Irvine. Among their ranks are current or former partners at Hogan Lovells; McDermott Will & Emery; Cooley; Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; and King & Spalding.
“The NYU Tax VAP program set me on the path to academia,” says Ruth Mason, Edwin S. Cohen Distinguished Professor of Law and Taxation and director of the Virginia Center for Tax Law at the University of Virginia School of Law. Mason was a VAP from 2005 to 2006, and also served as executive director of the Graduate Tax Program and deputy director of the International Tax Program.
“At NYU, I taught my first tax class, wrote my first article, and made friendships to last a lifetime,” she says. “Faculty I met have continued to make me feel welcome at NYU even decades later, and an invitation to vet a paper in Dan Shaviro’s tax policy colloquium is as valuable to me today as it was when I was a junior academic.”
Hellwig, the current faculty director of the Graduate Tax Program, is the second former VAP to serve in that position; Joshua Blank LLM ’07 (2006-08) did so from 2010 to 2018. Hellwig praises the value that VAPs bring to the Law School. “The energy that comes with teaching for the first time is a really positive force,” he observes, adding, “They’re highly accessible to our students. They make a huge difference for our program.”
VAPs benefit just as much, Hellwig says. “It’s made the difference in my and any number of other people’s professional careers who were looking for academic positions. It’s almost like the golden ticket. If you meet the expectations of the position, that’s almost assuredly going to lead to multiple tenure-stream offers.”
Julien concurs: “All these brilliant names who have gone through it are such a tribute to what a successful program it is.”
Most recent former Visiting Assistant Professors of Tax Law:
Luis C. Calderon Gomez (2021–22)
Assistant Professor of Law
Cardozo School of Law
Nyamagaga Gondwe (2020–22)
Assistant Professor of Law
University of Wisconsin Law School
Jeesoo Nam (2019–21)
Assistant Professor of Law and Philosophy
USC Gould School of Law
Eleanor Wilking (2018–20)
Assistant Professor of Law
Cornell Law School
Jeremy Bearer-Friend (2017–19)
Associate Professor of Law
George Washington University Law School
Ariel Jurow Kleiman (2016–18)
Associate Professor of Law
Loyola Law School
Posted March 16, 2023