Tax expert heads a pair of MSU clinical programs

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Michele Halloran, clinical professor at Michigan State University College of Law, almost plumped for a career in English literature.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature (honors program), summa cum laude, from LeMoyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., where one of her professors indicated she was one of the top English literature majors ever to come through the program, Halloran was accepted into a combined MA/Ph.D. English literature program at the State Uni-
versity of New York, Albany, where William Kennedy, author of Ironweed, taught.

“However, my husband was transferred, I re-thought my career options, and set my sights on the law instead,” she says. “And law presented me with a unique opportunity to use my well-honed reading, writing, and research skills.”

Halloran earned her J.D., cum laude, from Cooley Law School – where she  “fell into” tax law, she says.

“I enjoyed the tax law classes I took – and I took all that were offered – and then, on a whim, applied for a law clerk job with the State Board of Tax Appeals, an agency that’s now defunct – merged ... with the Michigan Tax Tribunal in 1976. So many accountant-types applied for that job, I thought my chances of getting it were slim – but I did! I knew within days of combing through the work of the SBTA that I loved tax law – the issues were genuinely interesting and complex.”

For nine years, Halloran was a partner at the Lansing firm of Howard and Howard.

“I enjoyed working with many Fortune 250 companies to work through their Michigan Single Business Tax issues,” she says. “And I respected the culture of Howard & Howard.”

Her passion for tax law led to her current position as director of the MSU Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, where she teaches and supervises second- and third-year law students representing taxpayers before the IRS, the U.S. Tax Court, federal district courts, and federal appellate courts. Under her direction, students also advise clients for whom English is a second language about their rights and responsibilities under the Internal Revenue Code.

Halloran directs the general operations of the Tax Clinic, instructs students about substantive tax law as well as about matters concerning the practice of law, supervises students, and generates community awareness of Tax Clinic offerings, which include a variety of community educational programs for taxpayers.

Halloran, who teaches Tax Clinic I and II currently, has secured grants from the IRS, the Michigan State Bar Foundation, the Taxation Section of the State Bar, the Allstate Foundation, and the Coleman Foundation for various clinical programs.

Halloran also serves as director of Clinical Programs. After having only four clinics for many years – Housing Law, Tax, Chance at Childhood, and Small Business/Nonprofit – MSU Law has recently added four more – Immigration Law, First Amendment Law, Civil Rights, and Plea & Sentencing, along with a new practicum, the Urban Food, Farm and Agricultural Law Practicum that will explore urban farm opportunities in Detroit.

“Teaching law students in my clinical programs is the highlight of my professional career,” Halloran says. “It’s a chance to disseminate information about substantive tax law, as well as about the practice of law, to soon-to-be professionals. And – it’s always a chance to learn from the students as well. I’m always most refreshed to see the creativity and innovation exhibited by our students, and to know they’re committed to serving underserved populations.”

A faculty coach for two MSU Law student teams that took first place in the American Bar Association’s Student Tax Law Challenge Competition, Halloran is working with multiple teams for this year’s event.

She has taught tax seminars for the Sales Tax Institute, National Business Institute, and the Michigan Association of CPAs, and has written numerous articles on Michigan and federal tax law for national and state publications.

She served as an administrative law judge for the Michigan Tax Tribunal, where she enjoyed the opportunity to craft reasoned, well-structured decisions, some of which involved questions of first impression, she says.

She was the inaugural president of the Michigan Women’s Tax Association and has participated as a member of the State Treasurer’s Business Tax Advisory Group.

Halloran has been married to her husband Bob for 38 years; the couple has a daughter’s daughter, Marisa, and a son Christopher. The couple also has two grandchildren.

 The former English literature major is re-reading the classics, and enjoys well-written mysteries and poetry.

“I’ve loved reading ever since my grandmother gave me some Nancy Drew books for Christmas when I was eight,” she says.

Halloran, who grew up in Schenectady, N.Y., loves to travel and has enjoyed trips to the Galapagos Islands and several European countries. “However, these days I seem to have little time for extensive travel,” she says.

For about 20 years, she has served on the Board of Directors of Advent House Ministries in Lansing, an organization that, among other things, provides a weekend day shelter to the homeless and economically disadvantaged, engages in literacy education, and furnishes employment training to low-income people.

“Advent House provides a number of critical services to Lansing-area homeless and poor people.  Its employment services – in which typically ‘unemployable’ people are provided with the necessary skills to become gainfully employed – are amazingly successful.  There is much satisfaction to be had from working with an organization that makes a significant difference in the lives of others.”