When it comes to taxes, it might be an understatement to say that 3L student Sherfon Coles-Williams has a particular passion. “The first time I ever had to do a tax return, I got excited about it,” she said. “I realized that there must be something pretty special about me that I think it’s cool to file a tax return!” That “something special” is now leading her to pursue an LL.M. degree in taxation following graduation. 

Coles-Williams first encountered tax law through a clinic at Elon Law School before transferring to Richmond Law in her 2L year. “I really enjoyed the fact that it helped low-income and elderly people, people who may not know the different benefits and deductions that they can get,” said Coles-Williams. “That’s also one of the reasons that I love tax law: It affects everyone. Everyone, at one point in time, pays a sales tax or has to file a federal return.”  

So when she started at Richmond Law, Coles-Williams was quick to enroll in Federal Income Tax in the Spring 2018 semester with Professor Hayes Holderness. “At first, I was skeptical about whether or not I was going to stay in the class, given that it was so hard to learn,” she said. “But then I thought back to the tax clinic and the importance of being able to understand something so complicated.” Plus, she added, “Once you finally understand the puzzle and the language, it’s exciting to explore some of the nuanced issues.” 

Coles-Williams went on to earn a CALI Award for the highest grade in Professor Holderness’ Partnership Tax course – known as the hardest of the tax law courses – and serves as his research assistant, as well. She further enhanced her experience through a clinical placement in the Virginia Attorney General’s Financial Law & Government Support Section, where she helped review bills going through the General Assembly, and through an internship at Carmax, where she’s worked on a sales and use tax project. 

Coles-Williams plans to dive deeper into the tax law landscape with a specialized LL.M. degree next year. So far, she’s been accepted to programs at Northwestern (with a full scholarship), Georgetown, and New York University. During the year-long program, she hopes to spend time deciding whether to pursue a career at an accounting firm or law firm. She’ll also take more specialized tax courses, in addition to hands-on externships – because as Coles-Williams is quick to point out, tax law is a field that’s “complicated and always changing, so there’s always something new to learn.”