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USD Feature Story

Where Are They Now? Spotlight: Ronson Shamoun
(view the original article on the USD Legal Clinics’ blog.)

“Where Are They Now?” highlights USD Law School graduates who participated in one or more clinics, and their successful transition to the workforce. This segment features Ronson J. Shamoun, a 2002 USD School of Law graduate.

From a young age, Ronson “Ronnie” Shamoun dreamed of becoming a tax attorney, possibly working for his father who is a prominent local businessman in the San Diego area. “My next door neighbor was a CPA/Tax Attorney and I knew it was a great career path,” Shamoun recalls. “I also knew I wanted to stay in San Diego, the city where I was born and where my family lives. When it came time to go to college, I knew I wanted to go to USD because it offers a great Catholic education. My sister is an alumni and she had nothing but good things to say about her experience. Plus, I loved the campus.” Shamoun completed his Bachelors degree in accounting in 1998 and, when he decided to go to law school after he graduated, USD’s School of Law was the natural choice.

Shamoun was an active participant in the legal clinics during his time there. He worked closely with Professors Gail Harriet and Donna Matias to raise the necessary capital for them to found the Entrepreneurship Clinic. In addition, he also was a Legal Intern in the Federal Income Tax Clinic where he met Professor Richard Carpenter, who became a good friend and mentor. “Richard is a gifted professor,” he says. “I took the tax litigation course he taught, in addition to working with him in the Tax Clinic. Richard has a tremendous passion for the litigation aspects of tax law and enjoys protecting people from the IRS. Having the opportunity to work with Richard in the clinic was a tremendously rewarding experience.”

During his internship with the Federal Tax Clinic, Shamoun settled seven cases, and remembers one case in particular that spanned about three years: an Innocent Spouse Claim for a low-income woman who was recently divorced. Shamoun remembers the case vividly. “Her husband had been hiding his business activities and, being a loving and supportive wife, she signed all the paperwork that he asked her to without question. When their divorce was finalized, he ended up leaving her with a enormous tax bill that she would never be able to pay off. She came to the Legal Clinics distraught over how she could ever afford to pay the money back. However, I was able to persuade the IRS to abate the full liability. I will never forget how relieved she was when we told her that her liability was relieved.” Of the rest of his time in the clinic, Shamoun reflects, “We saw many similar types of cases during my time there. Our clients could not afford the services of an attorney and had nowhere else to turn to in order to get help. They were so grateful for the work that we did, which was a great feeling. On top of that, I knew we were doing a huge service for our community by helping and protecting those San-Diegans that needed it most.”

Shamoun also credits his experience in the clinics with giving him a chance to utilize the principles he had learned in his law school courses through real world experience. “The clinics were an important aspect of my legal education – it wasn’t just me studying a case out of a textbook,” Shamoun reflects. “I was able to get real substantive practice on real cases. It was a great confidence booster when I went out on my own because I already had the foundation I needed because of the clinic program.”

After receiving his J.D. in 2002, Shamoun pursued his Masters of Laws in taxation through USD’s LL.M. program, which he finalized in 2003. Shortly after graduating, a friend’s mother referred a large case to him. Shamoun contacted his old mentor, Richard Carpenter, to see if Carpenter would jointly work on the case with him. Carpenter agreed and, after they settled the case, Shamoun decided to start his own practice, renting an office next to Carpenter. Shamoun has gone on to build a successful practice. His firm has expanded to a staff of six attorneys, two CPAs and five administrative staff members. RJS Law is now the largest boutique tax controversy firm in San Diego.

RJS Law’s team of attorneys and staff.

RJS Law deals in all areas of federal and state tax controversies including criminal tax matters, audits, appeals, collections/settlements, tax court litigation, sales tax, and payroll tax matters. Their cases have ranged in size from a few thousand dollars to over $300 million. Shamoun has also successfully defended numerous clients in several high profile criminal cases and has achieved remarkable results. In recognition of his achievements, he received the San Diego Daily Transcript’s “Top Young Attorney” award in both 2009 and 2010. A recognized expert, Shamoun is also a frequent legal commentator for many local media outlets including Fox 5, ABC Channel 10, KUSI, NBC 7 News, and nationally on The Daily Buzz.

Ronnie and his wife, Melanie Shamoun.

Outside of his law practice, Shamoun is an active member of the community and is an elected member of the Ocean Beach Planning Board. He is also the owner of the Junction Steakhouse in El Cajon, the Charcoal House in La Mesa, a Subway franchise in Ocean Beach, a convenience store (Newport Quik Stop), and a drive-through coffee/juice bar (Café Bella). Shamoun also recently purchased the famous “floating” building at 3rd and A Streets in downtown’s city center neighborhood. RJS Law will occupy the fourth floor of the 32,500 sq. ft. building and the additional space will be leased to tenants.

“One thing I would like to add is that a big part of my success and motivation is my father,” comments Shamoun. “My dad is a tremendous inspiration to me and my desire to make him proud fueled me through school and in my career. Since I was little, it has been his love and support that has given me the foundation to become what I am today. I am truly blessed.”

And USD’s School of Law and Legal Clinics built on that foundation by providing him with both the legal knowledge and practical experience to create a winning combination for a thriving law practice. “My experience in the clinics gave me the confidence to be able to go out on my own and do it myself,” comments Shamoun. “And because of that education and my father’s support, I have.”

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