My Career Arc, by Barry Kozak
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After majoring in Applied Statistics at the State University of New York at Albany, I began my career as a pension plan consultant. Starting in 1987, I worked for various actuarial consulting firms in New York City, where I was trained in the pre-computer-on-every-desk time period to truly understand the data and the results of annual actuarial valuations and ancillary projections related to plan liabilities. I was recognized early on by my more seasoned colleagues as a natural trainer and supervisor, and as someone who can draft simple letters to clients that communicated complicated actuarial matters.
In 1994, I became an Enrolled Actuary, and by the end of 1995, I added the professional designations of Chartered Financial Consultant, Registered Representative (FINRA Series 7 and 63), and New York State Life Insurance Broker. However, instead of pursuing the sales and consulting end of the profession, I refocused my career in 1996 by moving to Chicago to matriculate at The John Marshall Law School. During my time as a student, I was selected by the American Bar Association?s Tax Section as its law student representative and liaison (and was ultimately a member of its inaugural class of Nolan Fellows), and I was the first law student to chair a Chicago Bar Association Young Lawyers Section substantive committee (the Estate Planning Committee, and then went on to found the Young Lawyers Section Employee Benefits committee). I also studied abroad in the summer of 1998 in Budapest, Hungary, and externed with the country's Ministry of Social Security, where I assisted them in understanding the American retirement system as they were harmonizing their domestic laws with those of the European Union.
Upon graduation from law school in 2000 with a JD and an LLM (in Employee Benefits), I immediately started teaching graduate-level Employee Benefits classes as an adjunct professor at John Marshall while working full time as an ERISA Associate in a large law firm. In 2001, I was asked to serve as the Associate Director of the graduate Employee Benefits programs on a part-time basis (under the leadership of Prof. Kathryn Kennedy), so I began to simultaneously work on a part-time basis as a legal consultant at a national actuarial firm. In 2005, I became the full-time Associate Director of both the graduate Employee Benefits and the graduate Tax Law programs. Although not a full-time member of the faculty, the Dean allowed me to develop and teach other classes in the regular JD curriculum and to participate in faculty committee governance and other institutional service, so I started teaching and researching issues with income tax, estate planning and elder law, and also created more detailed ERISA classes, such as a class on how attorneys should counsel the compensation committees of the Board of Directors of public companies, and another on income tax issues with distributions from retirement plans and IRAs. Outside of the law school, I presented a paper on a target benefit approach to individual Social Security accounts at the 2002 World Congress of Actuaries, and started presenting and moving up in leadership at The American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries, as well as at the Chicago Bar Association and at various sections of the American Bar Association. I was active at the Great Lakes TE/GE Advisory Council, and under the mentorship of Monika Templeman, I was invited to be an instructor at numerous internal IRS training programs for their Employee Plans agents, especially after the Pension Protection Act of 2006 was enacted.
In 2007, instead of accepting an invitation by the Dean to join John Marshall?s faculty as an associate professor with tenure, I decided to pursue a Masters degree at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy Studies, assuming that such an offer to join the tenured faculty would still be available upon graduation. While pursuing my graduate degree, I served on the editorial board of the Chicago Policy Review and I voluntary wrote a Masters dissertation on the effect of pension savings if Congress initiated a consumption tax regime. I continued working and teaching on a part-time basis at John Marshall during this time, and in addition to those duties and responsibilities, I authored a text book (Employee Benefit Plans, by Carolina Academic Press) and a Bloomberg BNA Tax Management portfolio (Kozak, 353-4th T.M., Employee Benefit Plans and Issues for Small Employers). During that period, the Dean decided to offer some unique legal specialties, and asked me to take my single elder law elective class and develop a complete curriculum that would justify a JD certificate in Elder Law. After the general faculty approved my proposed curriculum (the individual classes and the collective learning objectives and skill sets), I was in charge of teaching some of the classes and hiring adjunct professors to teach the remaining classes. Somewhere along the way, I was also appointed as an adjunct member of the faculty of DePaul University School of Law to teach an Employee Benefits law class in its LLM Taxation curriculum.
After I graduated from University of Chicago in 2009, I restored my full-time employment status at The John Marshall Law School, and was promoted to Director of the Elder Law Program, but the intervening economy had effectively eliminated the possibility of a tenured faculty position for the foreseeable future. During my career in academia, I served as faculty coach and judge for numerous intra- and inter-scholastic moot court and negotiations competitions, as an advisor for JD and LLM level independent research papers, and as a mentor to law students and newly admitted attorneys. I also participated in many national and international conferences dealing with legal issues with aging, financing retirement, and adult guardianship, such as the annual Illinois Governor?s Conference on Aging, the Third World Congress on Adult Guardianship, the annual American Society on Aging conference, and the annual Law & Society meeting. I participated in the drafting of the Chicago Declaration, and was part of the John Marshall delegation presenting our view for a Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons at the fifth annual meeting of the United Nation?s Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing. Also, after establishing a relationship with the East China University of Political Science and Law and travelling to Shanghai several times to provide some lectures and consulting, they invited me to serve as a visiting professor during Spring 2014, teaching classes in elder law, general American comparative law, and American legal writing.
As of August 2015, due to budgetary decisions, my position was eliminated at the law school, so I started a law firm, The Law Offices of Barry Kozak, and a consulting firm, Retirement HELP, Inc. My goal and passion was to educate individuals about retirement, aging, end-of-life, and legacy issues while they could still plan, and before the emergencies happened in their respective lives. I was asked to continue teaching classes in the LLM in Estate Planning program at The John Marshall Law School, and I also received an academic appointment as an adjunct member of the Loyola University Chicago School of Law faculty, teaching various Elder Law classes, and I was appointed as a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Loyola for 2017. I have recently earned another professional designation: the Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP) through the American College of Financial Services.
After about a year as a sole proprietor, I decided that my mission would be more widely available if I was part of a larger consulting organization. In January 2017, I was invited to join October Three Consulting, LLC, a national actuarial and consulting firm. In addition to assisting with the communications and compliance issues with market return cash balance plans, we investigated ways to develop a new practice area, where we would provide age-friendly business consulting services (such as helping HR departments to implement formal phased retirement programs, to provide financial wellness and retirement readiness education, and, to recognize and eliminate ageism and age discrimination within their workforces).
In 2019, I voluntarily terminated employment and established Retirement HELP (see www.retirementhelp.consulting) and in 2020, I established Estate Law HELP (see www.estatelawhelp.com).