Monday, November 21, 2005

Adventures in Subject Research Teaching

Lee brought up the question of teaching legal research in the context of substantive law courses. I think Lee was thinking of what I call "cameo guest shots" where the librarian comes in the class for a class visit to explain how to do reseach in the various specialized resources for the subject area. This is always fun, and builds cred with the students and faculty. I certainly recommend it -- Nice work if you can get it as they say. Actually, the demand for it builds if you do good work in one class, the faculty member is likely to tell others about it and voila! Your dance card begins to fill up.

What I actually had in mind is a course I co-taught several years back, a semester-long class in Federal Tax Research and Practice. You could not have picked a more intimidating subject to ask me to co-teach! But I really had a great time and am very good friends with my co-teacher now. I really had to teach myself a lot, since tax research is probably the most distinctive area, and maybe the only one worth a whole semester, even mixed in with practice.

It was hard at first to find a good book about tax research, but now there are a couple to choose from. We had always had Gail Richmond's Federal Tax Research: Guide to Materials & Techniques, and West’s Federal Tax Research, by Raabe, Whittenburg. Bost & Sanders, but near the end of teaching the class, another book that I liked even better as a textbook came out: Tax Research by Barbara Karlin (Prentice Hall). the nice thing about this as a textbook is that it has very nice flow charts and explanations about the federal tax procedures and publications.

We finally stopped offering the class when the demand dropped to one student (wow! a two prof. to one student ratio!). But before that happened, we offered the class once a year for about 3 or 4 years, and had many students who were working for the IRS while they were going to law school. It was always an interesting class to teach, and I learned a lot co-teaching with my colleague, who is actually 10 year younger than I but had been at Suffolk a year longer than I. That's what the librarian ladder will do for you, I guess. Still, it was a terrific experience, in both senses of the word. I could not have been asked to co-teach anything more terrifying, but I guess once you've faced a really angry judge and had 2 C-sections, the rest of life is a piece of cake, hey? I still have the syllabus if anybody wants it. E-mail me at, sometime after Turkey Day.

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