Meet the Professor: James Motter


James M. Motter is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Law & Taxation at the Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis. Originally from Fort Wayne (Indiana), Professor Motter obtained his B.S. in Accounting and MBA degrees at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. During his time as an accounting student at the Kelley School, Professor Motter had an internal audit internship at John Deere France and an audit internship at KPMG.

After the first year of his MBA program, Professor Motter began a J.D. (Doctor of Jurisprudence) degree at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. As a law student, Professor Motter had law internships at Barrett & McNagny LLP in Fort Wayne, and at Barnes & Thornburg LLP in Indianapolis. Upon graduation from law school, Professor Motter worked as a law clerk/Attorney-Adviser for a Judge at the United States Tax Court, in Washington, D.C. After his first year at the Court, he began an LL.M. (Master of Laws) degree in Taxation at Georgetown University, focusing on Corporate and International taxation. He feels both his work experience at the Court and his LL.M. coursework significantly enhanced his ability to analyze and teach difficult tax material.

As he neared completion of his LL.M., he received offers from both law firms and public accounting firms. Because he wanted to gain experience practicing as a tax lawyer, he ultimately decided to accept an offer from Baker & McKenzie LLP, an international law firm with a strong tax practice. He explains that tax is an interdisciplinary field in which both lawyers and accountants practice, but that lawyers and accountants generally perform different roles in the tax field: Accountants, of course, perform the bulk of any quantitative analysis involved in tax planning and compliance, while lawyers generally address any issues that involve difficult legal questions requiring expert analysis of legal sources, broader legal issues (e.g., corporate legal issues, criminal tax issues, etc.), or representation of taxpayers in judicial proceedings and certain administrative proceedings. Lawyers and accountants both provide valuable advice and professional service to taxpayers — with each group drawing from their specialized training to help taxpayers comply with tax rules and regulations and plan their affairs so as to achieve optimal tax results.

Professor Motter first developed an interest in teaching while he was in college, during which time he enjoyed helping other students learn, answering classmates’ academic questions, and even being a tutor.

Now that he is a full-time faculty member, he says he enjoys teaching tax because, even though it is a difficult and highly technical subject, it is a fascinating one that always offers something new to learn. He says his goal for the coming year is to continue to improve his courses by working to identify the most important knowledge, skills, and abilities for students to achieve, tailoring the courses accordingly, and clearly communicating the learning objectives to students up front so they can better aim for those goals.

Professor Motter’s advice for students preparing for the Regulation section of the CPA exam is to take the A328/A515 and A339/A539 courses very seriously and to try to learn as much as possible in these classes, as they provide a solid foundation for the Regulation section of the CPA exam (in conjunction with business law coursework). His advice for all accounting students — but particularly MSA and MST candidates — is that they should work hard in their studies, but also make sure they really want to be accounting professionals: If a student doesn’t really ‘enjoy’ accounting but is simply pursuing it because there are good job prospects in the accounting field, they may be better off pursuing another field. Assuming the student does enjoy accounting, however, they should try to figure out what area of accounting they most want to work in (e.g., tax, audit, controllership, etc.) by taking a variety of courses and getting practical experience.

When asked if he had any guiding principles in his life or in his career, Professor Motter said that he cares deeply for truth and honesty and always doing the right thing. He also said he thinks that, generally, quality is much more important to him than quantity, and that, for him, success means doing something meaningful and of very high quality, and thereby making some sort of permanent positive change in the world. He said he hopes that comes through in his teaching and that he always tries to set high standards for himself and for his students. In particular, although he is sometimes not as prepared as he would like to be, he always tries to be very well prepared for every class, so that he can explain the topics as clearly as possible.

Outside of teaching tax, Professor Motter enjoys reading classic literature and has personal interests in mathematics, science, history, languages, and cultures.