UHLC alumna Lopez '10 promoted to managing attorney at Lone Star Legal Aid
July 27, 2016 - After earning a J.D. from the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, Karyna Lopez was unsure of the next step in her career.
Lopez and her husband, Carl Blair '11, agreed to strengthen their legal educations, and pursue LL.M. degrees in separate programs at the University of Houston Law Center.
"I met my husband while I was in law school," Lopez said. "He wanted to do the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Law LL.M. at the Law Center after graduating. I said, 'OK.' I didn't have a better idea, and I applied for the tax program. So that's what we did. We went together."
Lopez's education at the Law Center has since paid dividends. After more than five years working as a staff attorney for Lone Star Legal Aid, Lopez was promoted to managing attorney and clinic director of the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, and is responsible for the tax work at the firm's 13 offices across Texas. She has held that role since November, and is one of the youngest managing attorneys at Lone Star Legal Aid.
"It's pretty awesome to be able to go to all these conferences, and see people who have so much more experience than me," Lopez said. "I'm at their level because of the work that I've been able to do, and I think it's hugely rewarding."
Lopez said she still relies on information she learned at the Law Center, including the Tax Controversy & Litigation course taught by U.S. Tax Court Judge Juan F. Vasquez, and his son, Juan Vasquez Jr., a partner at Chamberlain Hrdlicka's Houston office.
"Their class is great," Lopez said. "It really taught me how to be a tax attorney. One thing that they don't really teach in law school, that I didn't figure out until I started practicing, was how to actually do things. You have the knowledge, but you don't know the day to day.
"I still look back at my textbook from that class when I need to draft something for tax court. I thought it was a great hands-on experience. I tell every single intern from the Law Center that I come across to take that class."
After exclusively working in non-profit environments, tax law was initially new territory for Lopez. She said she is thankful to the Law Center for helping her gain expertise.
"When I started doing tax work, I had no idea what I was doing," she said. "But I had the book knowledge that let me know where to go in the code, and I could figure it out from there. My teachers at the Law Center were excellent. I thought the quality of education I got at the University of Houston Law Center was great. I would absolutely recommend people get an LL.M."
Paul Asofsky, director of the Tax LL.M. program, said Lopez is a prime example of an attorney who can help others in an area of law not normally associated with public interest.
"The LL.M. tax program is excited that Karyna Lopez is heading up the low-income taxpayer clinic at Lone Star Legal Aid," Asofsky said. "On a personal basis, it was a pleasure to have her in my class. This is a great fit on both sides. Most important, it sends a signal to our students that there are opportunities for public service in tax practice."