Delivering Temple Law School’s fourth victory in the last five years, Victor Ficarra LAW ‘24 and Natalie Romano-Nuesch LAW ‘24 claimed top honors in the J.D. division of the ABA Law Student Tax Challenge. 

In the first round of the competition, students were tasked with preparing a 10-page memorandum to a senior partner and a five-page letter to a client. The questions revolved around home office and commuting expense deductions, categorizing a horse farm as a business or a hobby, an exchange of real property and its tax consequences, and whether a settlement expense could be excluded from a friend’s taxable income.  

Following their written submission in late fall, the Temple Law Tax Team was informed in early December that they had earned a ticket to the next round. Competing against dozens of teams from across the country, Ficarra and Romano-Nuesch were among six J.D. teams advancing to the semi-finals held at the ABA Tax Section’s Midyear Tax Meeting in San Francisco. 

Ficarra said that the experience he and Romano-Nuesch gained through their work in Temple Law’s Integrated Transactional Program (ITP) and Low Income Taxpayer Clinic helped tremendously in this competition.  

“Each experiential opportunity allowed us to apply what we learned in a traditional classroom setting to real-life situations which is exactly what we did in this competition,” Ficarra said. “The programs also gave us a comfortable setting to practice working with other law students, and these interpersonal skills were definitely applied both in preparing for the competition and in performing before the judges.” 

Professor Omeed Firouzi, who leads the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, accompanied the team on the trip and assisted in prepping the pair. 

“I’m so proud of the students as they worked very hard to achieve this success,” Professor Firouzi said. “It was clear they understood the law well and they were compelling in their presentation. They are terrific advocates.” 

The team was led by “excellent coach and mentor” Professor Kathy Mandelbaum, who set up practice sessions with past competition winners and Temple Law faculty to get the team prepared for the competition. 

“[Professor Mandelbaum] was instrumental in keeping us calm and helping us pace our preparation,” Ficarra said.  

When asked why Temple’s teams have been so successful in the ABA competition, Professor Mandelbaum commented, “Temple is one of the very few law schools offering an Introduction to Taxation course to 1Ls.” In addition, she noted that “our Tax Faculty and experiential offerings are deep and wide, allowing students to get a moot court equivalent in an area of law without a huge deal of controversy work.”  

“I was incredibly proud, they nailed every question,” she added.  

Ficarra and Romano-Nuesch praised each other for their diligence throughout this competition.  

“Natalie was very invested in the competition, incredibly detail-oriented in her preparation and always very encouraging to me,” Ficarra said. “She presented herself so confidently before the judges that it empowered me to step up.”  

“Victor and I made a fantastic team,” Romano-Nuesch said. “We worked on the written submission for over a month, and he spent hours with me fleshing out each issue. Together, we incorporated feedback from several practice rounds into our oral argument. Victor was diligent and relentless, which greatly contributed to our win.”