When recent UCLA School of Law graduate Dana Ontiveros ’21 sits down to work each day in the Los Angeles office of Snell & Wilmer, she is able to tap into the vast array of skills that she gained during her time in law school. While she spends the bulk of her hours working in the firm’s commercial litigation group, with additional projects in corporate and securities law and real estate, she consistently finds her mind returning to many of the lessons she enjoyed most at UCLA Law — the ones centering on tax law.
“Studying tax law will help prepare you for nearly any career in law, whether in the tax world or not,” Ontiveros says. “If you can comb through the tax code and apply its sometimes dense provisions to real world numbers, analyzing statutes and regulations in other subjects will come with ease.”
For Ontiveros, years of intense focus in UCLA Law’s renowned tax law program were rewarded not only when she joined her law firm in September but also when she was named the 2021 recipient of the Bruce I. Hochman Award for Excellence in the Study of Tax Law, the highest honor that UCLA Law presents to outstanding graduates in the field. The $15,000 award is presented by the Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy and has gone to the law school’s top tax law students since 2002.
“It was extremely gratifying to receive the Hochman Award,” she says. “I took a great interest in tax law throughout law school and worked hard in my courses but did not expect to receive such an honor. I was even more humbled after meeting with the award donors, who told me about the great life and career of Bruce I. Hochman.”
The award is named for a member of UCLA Law’s first graduating class in 1952 who went on to become a fixture of the Los Angeles legal landscape. Hochman worked as a judge advocate general in the U.S. Air Force and a federal prosecutor before founding his own firm in 1956 and becoming one of the most respected litigators in the federal tax bar. He was also a prominent philanthropist and the regional chairman of the Anti-Defamation League. After Hochman died in 2001, his partner and co-founder of the firm of Hochman and Salkin, Avram Salkin, and Dorothy Salkin invited Hochman’s widow, Harriet Hochman, and the law firm to join them in funding the award.
Thanks to her UCLA Law experience, Ontiveros can envision enjoying a similarly impactful career. “My time at UCLA Law fostered interests in several different types of law, such as tax, intellectual property, bankruptcy, real estate, local government,” she says, “the list goes on and on! UCLA Law is an amazing place to develop your academic and legal interests. There are myriad opportunities, such as this award, for students to distinguish themselves and find their calling.”
Much of that inspiration came from her work in classes including Federal Income Taxation, Taxation of Business Enterprises, Tax Practice, and the Real Estate Law Clinic on affordable housing. Specifically, she credits her “fellow students, who constantly motivated me to be a better lawyer and a better version of myself,” as well as Professor Jason Oh, who holds the Lowell Milken Chair in Law and is the faculty co-director of the Lowell Milken Institute, and Lecturer Lance Bocarsly ’87. “They illuminated what could be considered a dry subject, showing the greater social implications and policies behind tax law,” Ontiveros says.
That foundational work in tax law and the boost that she received from the Hochman Award have set Ontiveros on a path to fulfill her own “calling” as a lawyer. “Ideally,” she says, “through my career, I will forge a way to combine my interests in a way that makes a positive impact on my community.”