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New Tax Professor Loves Problem Solving

Stephanie Hunter McMahon“Tax law is about problem-solving,” said Stephanie Hunter McMahon, UC Law’s newest Assistant Professor of Law. “It’s like trying to solve a puzzle. You look at how a company’s tax challenges can be solved within the confines of the tax code. That can make things very interesting!”

The latest addition to UC Law’s tax team, Professor McMahon joined the law school this summer. She will teach business tax during the fall semester. “I enjoy teaching,” she said, “and I enjoy being able to show others how to think of tax as problem-solving either from the government or business’s perspectives.”

A summa cum laude graduate of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, GA (BA), a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, and the University of Virginia (MA and PhD, expected January 2009), Professor McMahon also has a strong interest in American history. She will soon defend her dissertation for a PhD in American legal history. “My scholarship explores the sources and effects of legal change in US history.  Needless to say, I am particularly interested in changes made in tax policy,” she said. “I am currently studying the pressure applied by the American government’s structure, primarily the separation of powers and federalism, on the development of several aspects of federal income tax policy.”

So…why law?

“No one in my family is a lawyer, but by the time I graduated from college it seemed a natural choice for me,” she commented. While in college she interned with several government agencies and local businesses. Along the way she realized she enjoyed the corporate world. When contemplating law school McMahon recognized that “Whether or not I became a lawyer, the skills I would develop at law school would help me in any business or in the practice of law. It has given me many opportunities since then.”

After completing rotations as a summer associate at one New York law firm in litigation, corporate law, and tax, McMahon realized that she especially enjoyed the challenges presented by the practice of tax law. And, she noted, the field tends to be color, race, and sex blind. “In my experience it didn’t matter whether you were a woman, man or polka-dot being, and no one cares about your golf score which was important to me because mine is particularly high. All companies cared about was whether you could get the job done.”

Making the Switch to Academia

Prior to joining the academic world, McMahon worked for several years in the tax field. She  worked as a tax attorney at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP in New York and at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meather & Flom LLP, also in New York, and then, during graduate school, at Nixon, Peabody LLP in Washington D.C.

McMahon’s teaching experience includes work as a teaching assistant at the University of Virginia, assisting several leaders including Joseph Kett, Olivier Zunz, Julian Bond, and Gerald K. Haines. She covered areas including the history of the civil rights movement, the American history survey course, and the U.S. in Latin America in the 20th century.

Teaching at UC Law

In addition to understanding tax laws, Professor McMahon’s class will emphasize business fundamentals—applying the law to business problems, drafting emails, and writing memoranda. “I want my students to feel comfortable going into a business environment. So, when their boss asks them to draft a memo on their first day of work, their initial thought will be ‘what’s the issue,’ not ‘how do I do this...’”

She continued, “I’m looking forward to working closely with my students, discussing business and tax issues, and seeing where they want to go with their careers.” With a small class of 13 students, McMahon is certain to know her students well!

What does she think of the Queen City?

“Cincinnati is a nice, friendly place. It is very neighborhood-oriented and very clean,” she laughed. “This is very important, especially coming from New York!”