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Tax Law Professor and Associate Dean Paul Caron Finds His Niche

First year students who drew Professor Paul Caron for the week-long Introduction to Law course during orientation were surprised to find a softer Socratic method in the classroom. Caron, Associate Dean of Faculty and Charles Hartsock Professor Law, utilizes what many students refer to as the “clicker” system. Students answer “in class” questions via a hand-held device, which records their answers. His witty teaching style and constant efforts to engage students provides incentive for 2L and 3L students to enroll in his tax-related courses. “With clickers, students receive daily feedback on their mastery of the material,” Caron explained. “In the traditional law school course, students are evaluated only once in an end-of-semester final grade. By the time students receive feedback in the form of a final grade, it is too late to do anything about it.”

Education and Teaching Go Hand-in-Hand

An emphasis on education runs throughout Caron’s life. His father, who served in the Navy during World War II and as a policeman in the Salem, Massachusetts Police Department, went to college at night during his 40s and 50s to attain both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice from Northeastern University. Following in his father’s footsteps, Caron attended Georgetown University and attained his bachelor’s degree in Government and Political Science before attending law school at Cornell University.

Caron’s first taste of teaching came during his senior year at Georgetown where he served as a teaching assistant to his faculty advisor Walter Giles. Giles, a Constitutional Law professor, mentored Caron and influenced his decision to attend law school. “He told me at the end of my senior year that I was the second-best teaching assistant he had in over 30 years of teaching,” Caron said. “Being a competitive person, that rankled me until I subsequently watched the career trajectory of this favorite TA—Bill Clinton, Georgetown Class of 1968!”

Caron Works His Way Up The Career Ladder

Initially interested in politics, Caron settled into legal education and spent his summers working his way up the legal ladder. First, he spent time at a small firm in Ithaca, New York, and then he followed that with a medium-sized firm in Boston, Massachusetts. Finally he landed at the large New York City firm Shearman & Stealing. When he wasn’t in class, Caron spent his time working on the law review and as a teaching assistant and research assistant for three professors. Following his graduation from Cornell, Caron spent two years clerking for Chief Judge William J. Holloway, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Oklahoma City. During that time, Caron secured adjunct teaching positions at the University of Oklahoma College of Law and Oklahoma City University School of Law while clerking.

Moving to Boston, near his home in Salem, Caron’s next legal position was with Sullivan & Worcester where he spent five years working as a tax associate. During this time, he earned his L.L.M. in Taxation from Boston University School of Law. The teaching bug had bit Caron, however. Thus after several years in practice, he began working as a professor at UC Law. Caron and his wife Courtney, whom he met while clerking in Oklahoma for the same judge, made Cincinnati their new home. Incidentally, she is currently a permanent, part-time law clerk for the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.

Finding His Niche: Teaching

It seems that Caron has found his niche. As a self-proclaimed “shy and nerdy kid,” he blossomed into a busy, well-respected faculty member. “I was always one of those weird people who absolutely loved law school,” he explained. “I always had it in the back of my mind that I would like to teach someday,” he continued. Initially interested in teaching Constitutional Law, Caron was surprised to find a new love of tax during the fall of his second year at Cornell. “I took tax because everyone said I should. I absolutely hated it at first, but a light bulb went off while I was studying over Thanksgiving.” The rest is history.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Caron serves as faculty advisor to the Christian Legal Society and as the Dean of Faculty, assisting faculty in their development of scholars and teachers. He also maintains the TaxProf Blog he started on April 15, 2004 (http://taxprof.typepad.com). The award-winning TaxProf Blog provides resources and daily news to tax faculty, students and practitioners. In the last five years the site has attracted over 6.7 million visitors and is the most visited law-focused blog edited by a single law professor. Last year, it was picked as one of The ABA Journal’s Blawg 100.

This year with the many questions about the tax code and tax difficulties of Congress and Obama administration officials, Caron has had plenty of opportunity to provide perspective about tax issues. Most recently, he was quoted in a Washington Post article and thetowntalk.com about the tax code.

So what does a busy tax law professor do in his free time? When he has it, Caron enjoys rooting for the Red Sox and being dad…attending his children’s athletic events and school activities.