A generous gift from Richard M. Lipton, ’77, and his wife, Jane, has created a new chaired professorship at the Law School, the Richard M. Lipton Professorship in Tax Law.
Mr. Lipton, who is senior counsel at Baker & McKenzie, is not only one of America’s preeminent tax attorneys, he is also a prolific writer about taxation issues, and a long-serving leader within the legal profession. He taught a course on partnership taxation at the Law School for many years as an adjunct faculty member.
He cited a distinctive reason for his gift: “I was fascinated by tax issues from the time I was very young—maybe 11 or 12 years old. I would scour the Wall Street Journal every day for stories about taxes. So when I eventually came to the Law School, I knew what I wanted to do. Professor [Walter] Blum showed me how to do it—how to understand and think about tax law—but that wasn’t all he did for me. He was a great mentor, and he helped me land the position as a clerk at the federal tax court that gave my career a running start.”
“Through this gift,” he continued, “I want to help the Law School attract and retain the kind of faculty, like Wally Blum and so many others, that has always made UChicago such a special place—men and women who are not just world-class academics, but who are committed to guiding and assisting students to make the most of their abilities and their aspirations.”
Dean Thomas J. Miles said he was “enormously grateful to Dick and Jane Lipton for this important gift, which honors not only Dick’s extraordinary contributions to the field but the Law School’s tradition of eminence in the area of tax law.”
“Dick Lipton is an enthusiastic advocate for the study of tax law, one of the nation’s foremost tax practitioners, and a champion for academic excellence at the Law School,” said Miles, the Clifton R. Musser Professor of Law and Economics. “The Lipton Professorship ensures that the Law School will always have an accomplished tax scholar teaching and inspiring our students, just as the legendary professors who taught Dick helped inspire his magnificent career.”
Lipton has served as tax counsel in many of the largest transactions in the country, with a primary focus on partnerships and real estate. Based in Chicago for most of his career, he had prominent roles in major transactions related to the Sears Tower and the John Hancock Building, among many others. His practice has also led to his involvement with top-tier professional sports franchises in football, basketball, baseball, and soccer. He has been at Baker & McKenzie for almost 20 years, after previously heading practice areas at McDermott, Will & Emery and Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal.
He holds a record that is unlikely to be surpassed, having contributed a substantive article to the Journal of Taxation in 101 consecutive months. His career output of journal articles exceeds 300, and he is the co-author of two treatises, on passive activity losses and partnership taxation. “As it happens,” he explained, “I like to write on airplanes, and I was almost always on an airplane. I got past 10 million frequent-flyer miles pretty quickly in my career, and that has resulted in a lot of writing.”
He is currently a member of the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and he has served in ABA leadership roles for more than 30 years, including as Chair of the ABA Tax Section and the Tax Section’s representative to the ABA House of Delegates. As head of the Tax Section he expanded its pro bono activities and its young lawyers forum, inaugurating the Law Student Tax Challenge that today attracts more than 100 teams of student competitors.
“I urge everyone, and particularly lawyers who are building their careers, to get involved with the ABA,” he said. “What I learned there, and the relationships I created there, are really at the heart of my career.”
He is also a past chair of the American College of Tax Counsel, and he chaired the federal tax committee of the Chicago Bar Association.
Based now in Dallas, he describes himself as “semi-retired,” which means that in addition to helping clients he has time to engage his passion for golf with a round most mornings, often with his wife. As pandemic restrictions lift, they are looking forward to resuming the extensive world travel they have enjoyed for many years, and there are four children and four grandchildren to spend time with.
“My gratitude to the Law School begins with the fact that someone saw enough potential in me to accept me despite college grades that could kindly be described as mediocre,” he said. “I did have very good boards and strong references, thank goodness. And my gratitude continues with appreciation for the greatest intellectual experience of my life, provided by faculty and by my brilliant classmates."
"I have been fortunate enough in my career to teach at the Law School and to mentor younger lawyers at my law firm. There is some simple advice that I give to all young lawyers: Assume nothing, and don’t panic. The first of those could perhaps be the short version of the Law School’s most valuable lesson, and I frequently needed the second when I was there. Both of them, combined with good fortune and a phenomenally supportive wife, have been keys to a life and legal career that I have thoroughly enjoyed.”
An in-depth interview with Richard Lipton, in which he discusses his career and what he has learned about building a personal brand and a strong firm practice, can be viewed on the website for the Tax Section of the State Bar of Texas.