Alumni Spotlight: Janice Mays (J.D.'76)
News @ Georgia Law September 2011 Alumni Profile
Name: Janice A. Mays
Title: Chief Counsel, Chief Tax Counsel
Employer Name: U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means
Location: Washington, D.C.
Number of years at this position: 35 years, 7 months
Georgia Law graduation year: 1976 (Dec. 1975)
Other degree(s)/institution(s): Bachelor's degree/Wesleyan College,
Masters of Law in Taxation/Georgetown
1. Why did you choose to attend the University of Georgia School of Law?
- To the extent I had any plan, I planned to practice in Georgia.
2. Who was your favorite Georgia Law professor? Why?
- Perry Sentell - he brought the stories to life.
3. What is your most memorable experience from your time at Georgia Law?
- Honestly, it was being awed by an upperclassman (now a friend) who could beat anyone challenging him at "pong" by using his feet - still awesome.
4. Where was your favorite place to study during law school?
- The library, with a study group I loved, and at other peoples' homes, which were better than mine (and still are).
5. What was your favorite thing about living in Athens?
- In the summer, I enjoyed the quiet small town. In the fall and winter, I loved football.
6. What advice would you give to current Georgia Law students?
- Follow your heart and develop your common sense - it is as important as any other sense.
7. Please give a brief description of your responsibilities at the U.S. House of Representatives.
- In the House minority, I manage a staff of 26 (half the size of the majority). We analyze and prepare legislation in the areas of jurisdiction of the Committee on Ways and Means: tax, tariffs, imports legislation, Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, temporary aid to needy families, etc. We prepare members of Congress to design the legislation they wish to pursue and help them through the entire process of making law. Sometimes we help them with their arguments against legislation they oppose. When all is working well, we help them negotiate and reach a compromise that enables them to achieve the goal they aspired to.
8. What do you enjoy most about your job? What is the most rewarding aspect?
- I enjoy working with dedicated members and staff who strive to serve the people and want to help government work for all people. While they have the flaws of all humans, members of Congress are better than they get credit for. It is an ALMOST-always rewarding job.
9. What made you decide to pursue a career in this area?
- My career choice was public service. Chief counsel just happens to be the highest rank at the Committee.
10. What is one of the greatest challenges facing your field right now?
- We are about to lose many government employees of my generation (baby boomers) who are contemplating retirement. We should make every effort to transfer their reservoir of knowledge to the next generation. Unfortunately today's spin doctors have worked to convince Americans that their government does not work for them, so they do not care if their government loses these resources.
11. What do you do to handle the stress of your work?
- I am not the smartest stress reliever, but I enjoy hobbies and time with family and friends.
12. What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in your field?
- Today, congressional work is much more partisan than when I started. My advice would be to develop relationships among both Democrats and Republicans. Learn to work together. In the long run, it is the only way to get things done.
13. What do you enjoy doing in your free time? What are your hobbies?
- I enjoy paper crafts, jewelry making, reading and collecting "chintzware" (all-over floral transferware). I also love almost all music - jazz, country, opera, pop, the oldies, big band.
14. If you could share an afternoon with anyone, with whom would you choose to spend it?
- Nelson Mandela - what amazing foresight and patience.
15. What do you consider your greatest accomplishment in life?
- Legislatively, my greatest accomplishment was the Tax Reform Act of 1986. In broader life, my greatest accomplishment is being a person who is likable by myself and by others. In one of Meryl Streep's graduation speeches, she noted that all of us spend most of our time with ourselves and that it would be unfortunate if we were stuck with someone we did not even like.
16. How do you stay up to date on legal issues and trends?
- I gave up. I still read but have come to depend on my staff to keep up and share those things I must know.
17. What book/resource do you find yourself referencing the most?
- One of the dangers of working in the legislative branch of government is that you have worked on so many versions of a law that you often are confused about which version got enacted. I often have to check the Internal Revenue Code directly.
Also, I am a bad speller who writes longhand drafts. I depend on staff again - or the dictionary - to fix my errors. Often, the Rules of the House (or of the Committee) are an important reference for me. My job requires me to be a manager of people and events more than being a practicing lawyer.
18. When you look out your office window, what do you see?
- When Democrats controlled the House, I saw the wonderful United States Capitol. Now, I see the Cannon House Office Building. Both to me represent freedom. How lucky can a girl from South Georgia get?