Meet Tasheaya Ellison, a senior tax attorney at Shell Oil Company. Below, she shares her career path, advice for attorneys considering a career in administrative law, and thoughts on how to approach the rulemaking process.
1. What led you to a career in law?
I have wanted to be an attorney since I was 6 years old, when my class took a field trip to the courthouse to watch a trial. Law is interesting because every day is different and every transaction/case is different (never a dull moment). I originally went to law school to pursue a career in white-collar crime litigation, and I clerked in the District Attorney’s Office during the summers during law school to get litigation experience. During my second year of law school, a third-year law student told me that Tax Law would probably be on the Oregon State Bar Exam the year that I would sit for the bar, so I should take a tax course. I took the tax course from an amazing professor, Prof. Nancy Shurtz, and I later became one of her student assistants. Prof. Shurtz encouraged my to pursue a LL.M. in Taxation, which I did, and that led to a career in International Corporate Tax.
2. What experiences with administrative or regulatory law have you had?
During my career, I have worked for a Big Four accounting firm, Fortune 100 companies, and the federal government. My Federal government position was as an Attorney-Advisor in the National Office of the IRS (Office of the Chief Counsel International).
3. How did you become interested in practicing administrative law?
While working as a tax consultant at a Big Four accounting firm, I was asked to prepare a presentation on a newly issued tax regulation. As I was reading the preamble to that regulation, I realized that I wanted to work for the National Office of the IRS so that I could work on tax regulations and other tax policy projects. That evening I checked for openings at the Office of Associate Chief Counsel International and there was one open position with a closing date that was two days away. I sent my application in the next day overnight mail and I got the position.
4. Do you have any advice about “best practices” for attorneys who are preparing to handle administrative law cases or who are participating in the rulemaking process?
I would recommend that any attorney preparing to handle administrative law cases or participating in the rulemaking process focus on the big picture. Although you may be working on case or rulemaking project, take a step back and objectively think about the impact this case or rule will have others cases. One of the things I enjoyed most about working for the Office of the Chief Counsel International was that I had the opportunity to work on rulemaking projects that impact many taxpayers, so it was important to remain objective in my analysis of what is the “best answer” for this situation.
5. From your experience, do you perceive a need for different skills or mindsets of attorneys who work in-house as opposed to those who work in a more traditional litigation setting? In terms of the substantive work done by in-house counsel, how does that differ from traditional litigation?
When I worked for the federal government, I was more focused on being a subject matter expert and now that I work in-house, I have the opportunity to focus solely on one company/client. I spend a lot of time getting to know the company and thinking of ways to deliver value for the company through my role as an attorney.
6. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing administrative law practitioners?
I would encourage administrative law practitioners to have the courage to take risks to pursue their career goals and dreams. These risks can include taking on new challenging roles, projects/assignments, or making the decision to pursue an in-house role. Whenever I have been faced with difficult career decisions (i.e. leaving the federal government and becoming an in-house attorney), I force myself to objectively consider (1) where I want to be in my career in 5, 10, and 15 years, and (2) what is the “best” (not necessarily the easiest or most comfortable) next step to progress my career.
7. Outside of the law, what are your favorite activities or hobbies?
My favorite hobbies are running, golf, and studying languages with my children (Mandarin Chinese and Spanish).
This post was originally published on the legacy ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Notice and Comment blog, which merged with the Yale Journal on Regulation Notice and Comment blog in 2015.