Professor Lunch: Doran Talks Life and Love in Rare Interview

Kimberly Hopkin ‘19
ANG Emeritus

            Law Weekly staff received several requests to quote Professor Michael Doran this year, but due to a previous agreement, we are unable to print quotes from his classroom or hallway banter in an effort to “keep Doran employed.” After weeks of imploring the good professor, however, the Law Weekly was granted the rare opportunity to not only question him on his viewpoints but also quote those viewpoints for the Law School to see. What a rush.

Professor Michael Doran sits down with students for faculty lunch. Photo credit:

Professor Michael Doran sits down with students for faculty lunch. Photo credit:

            If you haven’t had the pleasure of taking a class taught by Professon Doran, allow me to give you a quick bio. Professor Doran graduated with a B.A. in Classics and Philosophy from Wesleyan University in 1988 before earning his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1991.[1] Then, Professor Doran married the love of his life, who he insists must not be aware of her many other options, and clerked for the Eastern District of New York under Judge I. Leo Glasser. His clerkship was far from boring, however, as he spent the better part of a year about ten feet from mafia boss, John Gotti, watching his mood sour as his trial progressed.

            After his clerkship, Professor Doran joined Caplin & Drysdale’s Washington, D.C. office, working mostly in federal tax law and federal pension law. A few months before becoming eligible for partner, Professor Doran applied and was accepted to join the Treasury Department in the Office of Tax Policy in 1998. While certainly rewarding, Professor Doran remembers the stressful experience working for a divided government with the Clinton Administration butting heads with a Republican-led Congress. After about a year and a half, Professor Doran returned to Caplin & Drysdale and made partner. In 2002, Professor Doran returned to the Office of Tax Policy, but this time under a Republican Administration and Congress. This experience was different; the united government had the ability to pass clean reform acts without worrying about pandering for across-the-aisle votes. In 2004, shortly after Professor Doran left, Congress passed the Pension Reform Act of 2004, which Professor Doran spent the better part of a year working on. When Professor Doran returned to Caplin & Drysdale, they encouraged him to apply for academic jobs.[2]

            Professor Doran was accepted as an Associate Professor at UVA Law in 2005. He taught property law and tax law as well as the ethics of tax law. When hired originally, he felt that tax lawyers owe a duty not only to their client but also to the tax system as a whole. His views have moderated from this position, but he still acknowledges that tax lawyers have a unique conflict of interest that differs from lawyers practicing in other areas of law. In order to be closer to his family while his kids attended high school, Professor Doran then made the “biggest mistake of [his] career” and accepted a tenured position at Georgetown Law in 2009.[3] While his family certainly appreciated having him around more often, Professor Doran missed the faculty and scholarship at UVA. When the opportunity arose to return in 2014, Professor Doran accepted wholeheartedly and was welcomed back.[4]  

            When asked how being named a “Tax Star” in one of UVA Law’s promotional articles has changed him, Professor Doran humbly responded that he has doubled his speaker engagement fees and curtailed office hours. Just kidding––he didn’t even know that the article existed. Professor Doran credits his thriving scholarship to the tax law faculty here, saying they are the real strength of UVA Law. While Professor Doran has previously written about the ineffectiveness of executive compensation caps, the stabilizing nature of incidental soft fiscal policy entrenchment, and the motivations behind deferred managerial compensation, his upcoming article focuses on jurisdictional issues in Native American law and should be published later this year.[5] Professor Doran views scholarship as successful not based off placement or number of citations but instead on whether or not the work has “advanced the ball” by influencing thought or policy.

            In the classroom, Professor Doran is lively and hilarious.[6] Several students have signed up for Employee Benefits Law despite not having any interest in the subject matter simply because of his classroom presence and fair grading standards. This high enrollment is also why the Law School has allowed Professor Doran to take on “passion projects” such as teaching Native American or Roman law. However, true to his personality, Professor Doran still considers the two summers he spent as a dishwasher in a restaurant in the Seattle Airport as the most fun job he’s ever had. We hope he stays at UVA Law forever.

            When asked what he wants the readers of Law Weekly to know, Professor Doran gave a piece of profound and insightful advice: “[REDACTED.]”  

[1] No, he did not play any drinking games with Justice Kavanaugh. I asked.

[2] At this point, Doran’s wife lost hope that Doran could “keep a job” for more than three years.

[3] We agree – how dare you leave us??

[4] We have forgiven him for leaving us and firmly, yet politely, asked him not to do it again. Seeing how he is approaching the longest he’s ever stayed in one job, I think we made our point clear.

[5] Without any sarcasm, this sounds like a page turner. If Professor Doran offers Native American law again, you should take it because the body of law is quite interesting and the concepts are broadly applicable.

[6] You’ll have to enroll in order to hear the “off the record” stories he told at lunch. Rest assured, he spilled some hot tea in his signature captivating yet-self-deprecating style.