Professor shares passion for tax law and economics


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News
At first blush, tax law did not hold much appeal for Jordan Barry when he was a student at Stanford Law. But a summer job at a law firm, where he tried different practice areas, introduced him to this niche. 
“To my surprise, I found I really liked it – when law school started back up in the fall, I started taking tax classes, and I’ve been doing tax ever since, he says. “I also teach and research in some other areas, mostly related to corporate law, law and economics, and things like that. That fits nicely with my love of economics.”  
A visiting professor at Michigan Law for the Fall 2013 semester, Barry is an associate professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, and teaches courses in the areas of tax, tax policy, contracts, corporate finance, and law and economics. 
“I’ve always enjoyed teaching,” he says. “I was a teaching assistant for several classes in college, mostly in the computer science department. I love it when students learn something new. You can see it on their faces – you can almost see the gears in their heads turning. It’s fun. And once they’ve got that new thing, they can keep that forever; that new knowledge is something they’ll always have. I love that.” 
According to Barry, some of his law students have a fear of math and numbers. 
“I think some people go to law school to get away from math,” he says. “I try to help students get over that fear. And it turns out you can really get pretty far in all of those areas using fairly simple math.  It’s a great feeling when a student who was worried about the math and uncomfortable with it at the start of the semester finishes the semester totally comfortable with the material. I hope they take that experience with them and that it helps them be more comfortable with math and numbers in other areas, too.”
Another challenge is that these courses cover a pretty broad range of material.  
“Sometimes students can become overwhelmed with the details and miss the forest for the trees,” he says. “When that happens, I try to help them take a step back and see the big picture.”
While Barry sympathizes with math-phobia, math has been a passion from his school days – and he earned his undergrad degree in math and economics at Cornell University. 
“I always liked math when I was growing up, and studying math in college was great; it always made me think. I never took economics in high school, but I took to it right away in college. I loved how economics provides a whole set of tools for looking at the world and understanding a wide range of behavior. You can get a lot of mileage out of a few relatively simple principles. The economics also went very well with my math background – the two fields have a lot in common.”  
Although Barry had considered a legal career for some time, he didn’t decide to go to law school until pretty late in the process. 
“I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do for a living, and I liked how you could go in a lot of different directions from law school,” he says. “Another thing I like about the law is that it’s a very human field. The law touches on so much of our lives, and you can see the impact of so many different fields—economics, history, philosophy, etc.—on the law.”
He earned his J.D. from Stanford Law School, where he served as managing editor of the Stanford Law Review. 
“I really enjoyed law school,” he says. “I learned a lot, my professors were great, and I made a lot of close friends – but the best thing about law school is that I met my wife Emily there.”
After graduating, he served as a law clerk to Judge Jay S. Bybee of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit then practiced law in the New York office of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. 
“I enjoyed private practice quite a bit, and learned a lot while I was there,” he says. “There was a lot of energy. The best part of the job was the people I got to work with – they were all very smart and hardworking. It was also exciting to be working on large deals that were being written about in the press and things like that.”  
While working in New York, Barry went on the law school teaching market and interviewed at several different schools, before joining the faculty at the University of San Diego in 2010 – a job that made the most sense for him and Emily. 
“My wife works as a federal prosecutor with the United States Attorney’s Office in San Diego, and I’ve really enjoyed my time at the university there,” he says. “I love my colleagues, the students are great, and we’ve met some wonderful friends. The move has worked out very well for us.”  
Barry, who has published scholarly articles in the Stanford Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and Virginia Law Review, among other journals, had not studied or worked at the U-M until now.  
“My sister and brother both went to college at the U-M, so I visited them several times when they were here,” he says. “They both loved their time there, and they were very excited when they learned I’d be teaching here and would be able to share in this Michigan connection with them.”  
A native of New Jersey – where his parents and most of his extended family still live – Barry will live in Ann Arbor until mid-December, before heading back to San Diego. He is enjoying his semester in Wolverine territory. 
“It’s been great – Ann Arbor is a terrific place to live,” he says. “There are a lot of good restaurants, and I’ve found it easy to get around. I went to my first Michigan football game recently and really enjoyed it.  I’ve also found the faculty and students here to be extremely friendly and welcoming; that’s definitely been a big factor in making my visit so enjoyable.     
“The biggest downside is that my wife had to remain in San Diego. I miss her a lot, and it’s no fun being away from her. On the plus side, it really reminds me how lucky I am that she’s my wife.”  

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