May 14, 2024

Finding a Surprising Calling in Tax Law

Originally drawn to law school to seek justice for animals in captivity, Rianka Macwan, JD ’24, maximized her law student experience by fully exploring and participating in all of her interests. Through this personal and professional work, she decided to launch her career as the LITC’s ABA Tax Fellow.

In 2021, if anyone told Rianka Macwan that she would start her legal career as an American Bar Association Legal Tax Fellow, she would be utterly confused. Born in the Netherlands and raised in Naperville, Illinois, Macwan knew from a young age that she wanted to be a veterinarian. Her passion for wildlife took her “from the ‘burbs to the middle of nowhere at Iowa State,” laughs Macwan, where she studied political science and animal science. After graduating, Macwan worked at a veterinarian clinic and did a brief stint as a zookeeper, plucking her from “the middle of nowhere,” and taking her across the country.

Working in zoos across the U.S., Macwan became all too familiar with the issues plaguing not just animals, but the zookeeping and veterinarian professions. “I wanted to advocate for changes in zoos,” she said, “and law school was the way for me to become an advocate for that.” But diving head first into law school was overwhelming at first. Lewis & Clark Law School offered opportunities within all of Macwan’s interests, so the natural thing for her to do was explore. After participating in the law school’s International Wildlife Clinic and setting a course to obtain a Certificate in Environmental and Natural Resources Law, Macwan found herself externing at a government power administrator. “But I had little interaction with others in that position as I often spent time drafting memo after memo,” she states.

After noticing Macwan’s desire for more hands-on work and direct client interaction, a fellow extern suggested Macwan register for the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC). Tax law was somewhat foreign to Macwan when she signed up, but upon becoming an LITC intern, she realized that the tax code was only a part of the LITC experience. “Bottomline, as a clinic intern, I got to be a problem-solver, which gave me energy and drew me in further. Then I knew it wasn’t because of tax law–it was because of the clients and Professor Lora’s mentorship and enthusiasm for teaching.” Following her new-found passion for tax law, Macwan applied for and received the Oregon State Bar Tax Section public service stipend to work at the clinic in the summer after her 2L year.

This positive and collegiate work atmosphere greatly contributed to Macwan’s professional growth, and eventually, her trajectory. The LITC agreed to sponsor Macwan to apply for the prestigious Christine Brunswick fellowship to work on tax issues for adults in custody. She got the fellowship and will be working as an attorney at the clinic after graduation starting in September 2024.

“Returning to the LITC as an ABA Fellow, I’m excited to increase the clinic’s outreach and work with people who are incarcerated.” Macwan will also take on a typical caseload at the LITC, but after that, education and outreach will be the orders of the day. “I plan to forge new partnerships in order to better serve the underserved–especially women who are incarcerated–because it’s all about setting up clients for success, especially those re-entering society.” But first, Macwan has a well-earned break in store. “I will visit Korea and Japan before starting my new position as a fellow… and maybe get a puppy!”