Matt Henderson never thought he would work for the IRS. Nevertheless, an on-campus interview opportunity introduced the idea to him, and now Henderson is a litigator in the U.S. Tax Court with a specialization in international tax issues. He maintains a connection to Colorado Law through the Colorado Law Classic, an alumni-run charity golf tournament he co-founded that raises scholarship funds for Colorado Law students.
Tell us a little about your work. What do you do, and what might a “typical” work day look like?
Since graduating Colorado Law in 2012, I have worked at the Office of Chief Counsel for the IRS in Denver (although sometimes I just tell people I work for the Treasury Department if I want them to like me). I handle litigation in the U.S. Tax Court and have begun to slowly specialize in international tax issues. (For some interesting background on international issues, check out the New York Times article “How to Hide $400 Million”). Because of the depth and complexity of the tax code, not to mention the depth and complexity of humans, every day is a learning experience, which keeps things fresh. A normal day might include some legal research, drafting motions for court, and a lot of negotiating with opposing counsel or pro se litigants. There are also some mornings when I am just buried in bank records.
How did you find your job?
I found my job through the on-campus interview process at CU. I initially got a summer internship at the IRS national office in D.C. during my 2L year, which I was fortunate to parlay into a full-time position in Denver. I had a strong accounting and finance background, which helped too.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
Thanks to the on-campus interview process, Colorado Law was almost fully responsible for my success in landing the job. Working as a litigator for the Internal Revenue Service was about the last possible thing on my mind until I saw that they were interviewing on campus, and I started to do some research on the position.
What skills do you utilize on a daily basis and how did your experiences or courses at Colorado Law help you develop these skills?
By far the top skills I utilize on a daily basis are negotiation and communication skills. This might seem counterintuitive because I’m working in tax law, but you can’t separate tax issues from the people who have to pay taxes or the tax court judges who oversee the cases. The most important thing I have to do every day is to communicate complex ideas and fact patterns into a simpler and easier to understand form. This would be much tougher without my legal writing class with Todd Stafford, Negotiation with Scott Peppet, and the Venture Capital class and Entrepreneurial Law Clinic taught by Brad Bernthal. I literally use things I learned in those classes every single day, both in work and normal life. Maybe more so in normal life.
Please talk a little about “people skills” and relationship building. How have your professional acquaintances (and friends) made a difference in your career?
I was very fortunate to make a great group of friends during law school that have been instrumental in helping to keep my sanity while starting out as a young lawyer. I have always had a generalized fear of networking events, but I try to make up for that in a different way. A fellow alumnus, Andrew Garnett (’12), and I started a charity golf tournament right after graduation called the Colorado Law Classic, which helps raise scholarship funds for the law school each year. That has been a really fun way to connect with CU alumni each year and bring folks together around Denver and Boulder to help give back to the school. Shameless plug, if you are interested in this year’s event, which will be on August 26, 2018, check out www.coloradolawclassic.org.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
Before beginning your job search take some time to think about your goals in life (not just career goals) and make sure you pursue a legal career that is going to be compatible with those goals. Pursuing the highest-paying job out of the gate is tempting and student loans are obviously no joke, but you don’t get to take your money with you when you’re gone. So try to make sure you career is going to provide personal satisfaction and room to pursue other interests as well so that you don’t burn out after a few years.
If you were to recommend Colorado Law to a potential law student, what would you say?
You just can’t go wrong with Boulder. Three hundred days of sunshine a year and having views of the Flatirons when you step out of the law school go a long way toward helping you through the stress of studying for finals, the bar exam, and finding a job. Colorado Law attracts an amazingly diverse group of talented students who you will be able to count as friends and colleagues for the rest of your life. Plus, you are going to have world-class professors, along with adjunct professors with real-world experience practicing law in Colorado, who can’t be beat.
Why did you choose Colorado Law?
I was just lucky that Colorado Law chose me. I was accepted off the waitlist a few weeks before class started, and I couldn’t have been happier. CU has the best law school around and living in Boulder for three years was just icing on the cake. Thanks, Admissions Office!