Veterans Day is a time for us to reflect upon and celebrate the heroism of those who have served our country, past and present. In honor of this year’s Veterans Day, we sat down with SALT Partner Tim Gustafson (Sacramento) to ask him about his experience serving our nation.
What branch of the military did you serve in?
I served in the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps.
What was your primary job?
Because I was stationed at a small installation, I wore many hats over the course of my tour. I assisted individual clients with estate planning, family law and contract issues. I advised the local command on aspects of administrative, international, and criminal law. And I represented the United States Government as a prosecutor for military courts-martial.
What motivated you to join the JAG Corps?
Initially, it was because I didn’t want to work at a law firm right out of law school. After I looked into the JAG Corps, though, I quickly learned it would provide me with immediate, substantive experience in many areas of law, the opportunity to travel and meet all kinds of people and the chance to serve my country. Ironically, I also found out the Army JAG Corps fashions itself the nation’s oldest “law firm,” dating back to 1775.
How many years did you serve?
I served for three years, which was one tour.
Did you go overseas?
I was stationed in the Netherlands, and it was awesome. There is a small military installation in the southernmost province of Limburg with a bowling alley, a grocery store and a law center. There was no on-post housing, so I lived in a converted Dutch farmhouse down the road from a traditional windmill. My command was in Germany so I spent a lot of time there, too, including at training events in the Moselle Valley (Germany’s wine country) and the German Alps. On one trip to Stuttgart, my place of duty for the evening was the local beer hall for Octoberfest. As for the rest of Europe, it was just a car, train or plane ride away.
What made you go to law school? Where did you go?
As a kid, grown-ups would tell me I would make a good lawyer because of how much I liked to argue. So I guess those comments, coupled with a strong and steady dose of “Matlock” reruns every summer during my elementary and junior high years, set me on the path to law school. Having gone from Southern California to Cleveland for undergrad, I returned west for law school and attended Stanford.
What made you choose tax law?
I fell into SALT. I ran the local tax center for one filing season while in Europe, but that was the extent of my tax experience. When I separated from the military, my father-in-law wanted my wife and me to land in Sacramento, and he, a judge at the time, would send me job postings, one of which was for a SALT associate at another firm. And the rest is history.
Do you get up earlier now or when you were on active duty?
I tend to be an early riser and enjoy exercising before work. So, in that sense, the military lifestyle fit me perfectly. These days, my personal “PT” begins a couple of hours earlier than it did in the Army, and sadly I don’t get paid to work out anymore.
Which era of life had tougher workouts?
Because I was stationed at a small unit, I was able to do my own thing in terms of a workout regimen. I still had to qualify on the two-mile run every year, though, and that was something I never enjoyed.
Favorite aspect of SALT?
I enjoy SALT for many of the same reasons I enjoyed my time in the JAG Corps. The SALT community is a relatively small group of professionals who are very bright, always interesting and in many ways like a family. The work is intellectually stimulating and varies considerably, so one never gets bored. And the Sacramento office, like the Netherlands Law Center, is far from the flag pole, giving us a bit more flexibility in our day-to-day routines.
What does Veterans Day mean to you?
Serving in the military was an incredibly enriching and humbling experience for me. In this politically-charged world of ours, the military community stands apart, a family of brothers and sisters doing right by each other and the country they love. It’s not about right or left, but about freedom, and sacrifice, and the men and women who fought, fight and will continue to fight for us all.