Bradley attorney Bruce Ely was featured in the ConNexus "Member Spotlight." The interview details Bruce's academic and professional background, his SALT practice and the factors that determine which cases he takes on. Below is an excerpt from the article.
Everyone knows Bruce Ely. Bruce has more than 35 years of experience and is the founding chair of Bradley’s State and Local Practice Team. He’s a guru on pass-through entities, an advocate in the legislative arena, and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. We are not aware of a State and Local Tax conference or seminar where Bruce hasn’t spoken. Bruce is always generous with his time and is a great mentor to anyone entering the field of State and Local Tax. Bruce resides in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, Karen, and two dogs. This interview was a real treat for me, and I know that you all will enjoy it as well.
Bruce – you have been practicing SALT for more than 35 years. Looking back – is there anything you would change?
Practice any other type of law? Actually, 39 years now! You know, I’ve asked myself that very question several times over the past 10 years or so, and I always arrive at the same conclusion: I am where I’m supposed to be, with God’s grace. Working initially in a small law firm allowed me to handle a variety of tax, corporate and real estate projects, and that broad base of experience helps me even today. Definitely thankful for the other employment and teaching opportunities presented to me over the years, but in hindsight, I’m glad I stayed the course and had time to devote to my patient wife and our two sons—and now the grandkids.
When you graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in accounting why did you choose to go to law school rather than go down the route of CPA?
By the time I had taken two tax accounting and two business law classes in my junior year at UA, I knew I wanted to be a tax lawyer, so I guess I’m one of those rare birds who knew where he or she wanted to go relatively early in the process.
Can’t help but notice you went to NYU for your LL.M. in Tax – how did the guy from ‘Bama end up in New York City?
My wife always remarks that our one-year stay in New York was the “most fun year of our marriage”—well, for her and the other law spouses anyway. I was stuck in the law library basement most of the time. UA Law School has a long tradition of sending grads each year to NYU for the Graduate Tax Program, and my boss at the time had graduated number 2 in his class there only 5-6 years before. Plus, it didn’t hurt that the law firm for whom I was clerking, at the behest of my boss/mentor, graciously offered to send a nice monthly stipend [see wife’s comment above].
Why did you go back to Alabama with the NYU LL.M.?
I was loyal to the law firm and mentor who had “sponsored” me, plus my wife and I loved Tuscaloosa and felt it was a good environment for raising a family—of Crimson Tide fans, of course. It was only after 20 years of practice that I accepted Bradley’s offer to join them here in Birmingham and help establish a Southeast regional SALT practice.
The original article, "Member Spotlight: Bruce Ely," appeared in the May 2021 issue of ConNexus.