My MoFo Story: Kevin Brown on Helping an Important Pro Bono Client Gain Tax-Exempt Status

Looking back on my time as a member of MoFo’s first-ever class of Boston summer associates, I’m amazed at and grateful for the meaningful opportunities I had to get involved with real work and learn from the firm’s talented attorneys on the job. Although the firm had to pivot to an all-remote program due to the pandemic, I felt welcome, known, and included from the get-go.

After our first week of onboarding and initial trainings, Paresh Kumar, an associate from the Boston office, reached out asking if I might help him on an ongoing tax-related matter. He recalled that I’d mentioned an interest in tax on an office-wide welcome call and wanted to include me. I had taken a few tax classes and was enrolled in BU Law’s joint J.D./LL.M. in Taxation, but wasn’t sure how much help I could be. I scheduled some time to talk it over with Paresh and hoped for the best. A pro bono client of his was discussing its tax-exempt status with the IRS, and Paresh was advocating that the group’s activities did not disqualify it from exemption going forward.

As it turned out, Paresh felt I could be of significant help. The client was important to him and, without tax-exempt status, it would struggle to continue its charitable, civil rights-related work. Helping this organization remain tax-exempt brought together Paresh’s interest in giving back, advocating for civil rights, and connecting with groups that are making positive changes in Boston. He asked for tax-related authority to support his position that the IRS had granted tax-exempt status to organizations in similar circumstances to our client.

We had covered tax-exempt organizations in my federal income class for a few days, but I had never come across the specific issue Paresh had asked me to look into. He gave me full rein to investigate on my own. Soon enough, I found that taking some time to educate myself on the basic area of law and then drilling down into specific issues raised more questions than it answered. Unsure of whether to simply charge ahead, I instead scheduled a follow-up with Paresh. I knew he was busy, but I didn’t want to spin my wheels and then not be able to deliver some kind of answer to him.

To my satisfaction, he was more than willing to hop on a FaceTime call, hear me out, and supply some additional background. It’s really helpful that MoFo is the kind of place that supports this approach to summer associate work. Even though I developed confidence in my ability to research and write for the firm’s attorneys throughout the summer, I never hesitated to reach out for clarification or to check in if I needed to. A request for more information or a quick clarification was never met with annoyance, and my work was never characterized as unimportant.

Ultimately, the research I completed allowed Paresh to feel confident in supporting his position to the IRS. He drafted a letter that reflected the research I had done and included me in discussions with the client over next steps. Weeks of silence followed as the IRS considered the letter, so it came as a nice surprise that, on my last day as a summer associate, we learned that the client heard back from the IRS and had been granted tax-exempt status.

The experience I had with Paresh repeated itself over and over throughout the summer. Initially, I got work from attorneys after reaching out to them and introducing myself. And, as my interest in tax became known, other attorneys reached out to me, enthusiastic about looping me in. Even when I missed the mark or an attorney needed me to look into further questions, the feedback was always given in the spirit of collegial encouragement. What struck me most was their desire not only to give me opportunities to do real work, but to share their expertise and welcome me into the firm as a colleague, albeit one with a lot to learn.

This summer has been different and challenging for a variety of reasons, but my time as summer associate in MoFo’s newly opened Boston office has invigorated me. I’m leaving this summer feeling energized to return to school (remotely) and enthusiastic about rejoining the firm next year.

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Kevin Brown is a rising 3L at Boston University School of Law. Before coming to law school, he taught English literature and earned an M.A. from Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English. Kevin is currently enrolled in in BU’s joint degree J.D./LL.M. in Taxation program and intends to focus his practice on federal taxation and financing transactions. He is an avid baker of bread, enjoys reading and writing poetry, and loves drawing and illustrating maps.