image of two men and one woman, all smiling and in business attire, with the woman and one man holding awards.

Jennifer Breton and Joshua Runyan LAW ’19, both students in Temple’s Graduate Tax program, have placed first in the LL.M. Division of the prestigious ABA Law Student Tax Challenge, held this year in Boca Raton, Florida.

The Tax Challenge, which is open to students at accredited law schools competing in teams of two in separate JD and LL.M. divisions, tests both mastery of complex tax analysis and written and oral advocacy skills. From an initial field that typically includes several dozen teams in the LL.M. division, four are selected on the basis of memos filed in the initial round of competition to present an oral defense of their analyses before a panel of practitioners at the Midyear Meeting of the ABA Section on Taxation. The memos, prepared for a partner and a client, analyze the tax consequences of three hypotheticals.

Professor Andy Weiner, who directs the Graduate Tax Program and served as the team’s faculty advisor, noted that the team had everything they needed to excel. “Jen and Josh are talented students who were well-prepared by their Temple education,” Weiner remarked. “This year’s hypotheticals focused on partnership tax and international tax. Jen and Josh had taken Partnership Tax and were in the middle of International Tax with Professors Abreu and Arnold when they were working on their written submissions. They had developed good instincts, and they were confident. They worked extremely hard too, but they had a great rapport, as noted by the judges of their oral defense, and had a good time. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Both Runyan and Breton extended thanks to Professor Weiner, Temple’s broader tax faculty, and members of the Philadelphia tax bar as well. “With the help of my wonderful teammate, Joshua Runyan, our faculty advisor [Professor] Andy Weiner, various other faculty and tax professionals, and the strong educational foundation we received from Temple Law (especially with regard to our Partnership Tax and International Tax courses), we were more than prepared to rise to the occasion,” said Breton.

Of course, doing so meant juggling already full lives: in addition to their other LL.M. coursework, each has busy professional practices (Runyan is an associate at Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP, while Breton has just wound down a solo practice to join Buckley Brion McGuire & Morris), community and civic leadership roles (Breton served recently as the President of the Caln Township Board of Commissioners while Runyan, an ordained rabbi, was until recently the Editor-in-Chief of the Jewish Exponent), and families (Breton has three children, Runyan ten). Even so, each says, taking on the Tax Challenge was more than worth it.

“The Law Student Tax Challenge is an invaluable experience in distilling concepts taught in the classroom and applying them to a real-world problem. I decided to compete to strengthen my grasp of the complexities of the tax code and thereby aid my practice as a tax attorney,” said Runyan. “Working through the problem was a lot of hard work, and preparing for the oral component of the final competition in Florida was a grueling process of moot presentations, but to be able to prove our mastery before a panel of judges representing the best tax practitioners in the country made it all worth it. I am humbled by the honor and thankful for the opportunity.”

Breton agreed, commenting that “I like to push myself to go beyond my comfort zone to take on new opportunities and the Law Student Tax Challenge was no exception. It was a very complicated problem and we had to research and prepare for the Challenge while balancing work, classes, and family commitments…. I was so proud to represent Temple and bring home the 1st Place award. That moment is one that will stay with me for a long time.”

Pictured above, from L to R: Tom Callahan, Chair of the ABA Section on Taxation, Jennifer Breton LLM ’20, Joshua Runyan LAW ’19 LLM ’20. Photo credit Robb Cohen Photography & Video.