Jan Pierce Retires as Director of the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic

Jan Pierce, clinical professor of law and director of the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC). Jan Pierce, clinical professor of law and director of the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC). Credit: Nina Johnson

Generations of Lewis & Clark law students can trace their careers to one man: Jan Pierce, clinical professor of law and director of the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC).

Pierce founded the clinic in 2000 and retired this year.

For 19 years, Pierce guided students in developing lawyering skills not typically taught in the doctrinal classroom. He taught students how to interview and counsel clients, investigate facts, develop the theory of a case, think strategically in litigation, advocate for clients in pleadings and oral arguments, negotiate with the opposing counsel, maintain client communication, and manage a client case load. He offered students opportunities that many lawyers never obtain during their careers, such as arguing before the Ninth Circuit. Through their experiences with Pierce, students gained the confidence to practice law and learned that they could make a difference in the lives of clients.

Pierce received his undergraduate degree and his law degree (with honors) from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. After graduating from law school, he spent two years as a law clerk to a federal district judge in Topeka. Pierce is a member of the state bars of Oregon, Kansas, and the U.S. Tax Court.

Pierce was serving as an attorney in the Chief Counsel’s Office of the Internal Revenue Service when he began teaching as an adjunct professor in the 1990s. At the IRS, he handled hundreds of federal tax controversies as a docket attorney, before supervising government attorneys working on both civil and criminal matters relating to federal taxes. At one time he supervised the criminal tax work done by IRS attorneys throughout Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawai‘i.

Pierce was the first, and, until recently, only director of the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic. In the spring of 2000, the law school received a grant from the IRS for the LITC. This happened to coincide with Pierce’s retirement from the IRS, and he took up the task of establishing the LITC.

“We were extremely fortunate that Jan answered our request to lead the LITC in 2000,” said Dean Jennifer Johnson. “He has consistently provided outstanding leadership and guidance to both clinic students and clients. We will miss his gentle teaching style and his passion for the little guy.”

Nationally there are about 140 LITCs, all of which receive a matching grant from the IRS. Unlike other such clinics, however, Lewis & Clark’s LITC has recovered attorney fees from the IRS four times. “From 2000 to 2015 we recovered $150,000—or about $10,000 per year—in attorney fees,” said Pierce.

Under Pierce’s leadership, Lewis & Clark Law School’s LITC has handled sophisticated tax controversies. “Several years ago we tried a fraud case which involved over $1.3 million, where the IRS had already collected $900,000 of that amount before trial based upon a jeopardy assessment and jeopardy levy,” Pierce said. “We were able to get over two thirds of the $900,000 back for the client.”

“The thing that I am most proud of is to see the students we have had at the clinic through the years become successful attorneys,” said Pierce.

Pierce continues to mentor alumni throughout their careers. The Oregon State Bar New Tax Lawyer Committee awarded him the Mentor of the Year Award in 2017. This year, the Oregon State Bar Tax Section honored Pierce’s contributions to the profession by presenting him with their Award of Merit.

Faculty and students have established the Jan Pierce Legacy Fund to celebrate Pierce and his dedication to students. The fund will support activities at the LITC. To contribute, visit law.lclark.edu/giving.