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Vanessa Scott: A Global Appreciation for Tax and Fine Ethnic Cuisine

Vanessa A. Scott is Counsel at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, a law firm that proudly boasts about its expertise in providing legal advice with a “global reach”. 


About five years ago, after taking a hiatus from the practice of law, Vanessa accepted a position at Sutherland in their tax group.  Armed with an LL.M earned from the prestigious Georgetown University Law Center in 2006, she quickly transitioned into an position at the firm providing advice to large, multinational employers seeking assistance with structuring employee benefit plans and executive compensation arrangements, as well as compliance issues arising under ERISA.  


Much of Vanessa’s time is spent talking on the phone with clients to obtain sufficient background information to produce thorough oral advice or a written advisory opinion that addresses complex tax and business issues.  This includes advising clients involved in mergers and acquisitions about how to manage benefit plans after a deal.


What is the most challenging part of your job?

Keeping up to date with changes in the law.  Employee benefits advisory is a very broad area of practice.  An attorney working in this area must be current on federal and state tax laws, fiduciary laws, ERISA, and many others.  This can be very time consuming so to be successful you must be creative about how you receive your updates.  Although I read a lot of material from sources such as Tax Notes and Tax Analyst, being in Washington is helpful.  Here you can develop a network people working in the agencies directly involved with drafting the laws.  You can learn a lot over a cup of coffee. 



What recent event has had the most impact on your practice?

Definitely the Affordable Care Act, which is expected to reform the current way health care is delivered in the United States.  Right now, a lot of my practice is spent advising employers about how to comply with provisions in the legislation that have already come into effect.   We also work with employers to develop a plan to help them with complying with parts of the Act that will not become effective until 2014.   This includes keeping them abreast of the status of lawsuits challenging the Act.


What advice would you give to a young law student who is interested in pursuing a career in tax

The big growth areas for tax practice are in advising clients on ERISA and international tax matters.  The global economy continues to grow.  There are tremendous opportunities in these areas because not a lot of people commit to becoming experts on these issues.  Also, not a lot of attorneys have knowledge of how these two practices areas are connected.  That would be a very valuable skill set to develop.


Where do you see yourself five years from now?

I would like to be well versed in international tax aspects of ERISA and use this knowledge to develop an even more sophisticated practice representing a broader array of employers.  This would mean that I would be advising more on benefits offered to expats and in-pats, as well as providing multinational employers comprehensive advice on employee benefits structures that can be applied to their global operations. 


How do you spend your free time?

Believe it or not, my weekends are completely consumed by football.  Mostly little league games where I watch my eight-year old son play and my husband coach.  My house is a football house.  I think my five-year old daughter may actually be the number one draft pick for the NFL quarterback position for her generation (smile).


What is your favorite restaurant in Washington, D.C.?

Rasika.  They serve the best Indian food.  It took some time, but my husband recently discovered he enjoys Indian food as much as I do.  We like to go to Rasika when we can get reservations.   It’s a real popular spot.  If you are ever in DC, you should try it out.  Their website is:


Describe your ideal vacation?

Two weeks.  Napa valley.  Half day wine tasting.  Second half of the day hanging out with the kids.  As long as my Blackberry and iPhone are close by, this is paradise. 

Want to Talk to Vanessa?  

For any tax, employee benefits, workers compensation or general questions, you can email Vanessa at [email protected] or give her a ring at (202) 383-0215. 


 Written by Marsha Henry


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