Elaine Hightower Gagliardi

Portrait of Elaine Gagliardi

Bio: Elaine Hightower Gagliardi is a Professor of Law at the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana and teaches in the areas of business and estate planning. She currently serves as Associate Dean of Students and as Director of the law school’s Montana Tax Institute, and has previously served as both academic Associate Dean and Clinic Director. Gagliardi is an Academic Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and of the American College of Tax Counsel. She is a past Chair of the State Bar of Montana’s Business, Estates, Trust, Tax and Real Estate Section. Gagliardi co-authors, with J. Martin Burke and Michael K. Friel, the five volume treatise Modern Estate Planning (2d ed.) (LexisNexis); currently authors the treatise How to Save Time and Taxes Handling Estates (Matthew Bender), and co-authors with James Delaney, Estate and Gift Tax Questions and Answers (2d Ed., Lexis Publishing 2013). Prior to teaching, Gagliardi practiced with Perkins Coie LLP in Seattle, and Day, Berry & Howard LLP, Hartford, Connecticut, and clerked for Hon. James R. Browning, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Hon. William J. Jameson, U.S. District Court, District of Montana. She earned her B.A. from Yale University, her J.D. from University of Montana with high honors, and her LL.M. in Taxation from New York University receiving the Harry J. Ruddick award for Distinction in the Graduate Tax Program.

Thank you: To receive this award from the University of Montana, a great institution that has profoundly impacted my path as a citizen and lawyer, is a singular honor. The University of Montana is a unique community of students, faculty, staff and alumni whose joint efforts enable the University to fulfill the promise of its historic symbol, a guiding torch. The people associated with this University at every turn have expected the best from me and have guided me by giving their best. Thank you to Dean Kirgis, and former Deans Munro and Burke, for honoring me with your nomination and more importantly for providing a strong beacon to follow.

Receiving this award has prompted me to reflect on the inspiration provided by those who comprise our University, especially colleagues, students and graduates of our esteemed School of Law. As a child, my uncle, Alex George, a graduate of our law school and a past president of the State Bar of Montana, inspired me to be a lawyer. I grew up observing him help his clients resolve conflicts, build their dreams and get through difficult times. In law school, it was Professor Emeritus Martin Burke who jump-started my intellectual curiosity and encouraged me to delve into the wonderful world of tax policy and to imagine how our tax system could best respond to ever-changing societal needs. Immediately upon graduation from our law school, I had the good fortune to clerk for two judges, again both Montana law graduates and both giants of the legal world: Judge Jameson and Judge Browning. Judge Jameson taught me the importance of staying true to one’s convictions and, in doing so, to understand that the law must take into account and respond justly to the nuances of each situation in accordance with precedent and compassionate consideration for all parties to a dispute. Judge Browning, as longtime chief judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, was a master at bringing people with strong and divergent opinions to a point of agreement. When I embarked on the practice of law, it was yet again, a Montana graduate, Bruce Flynn, a Seattle attorney with the global firm of Perkins Coie, who taught me the skills and modeled the creativity and patience needed to be an effective counselor. I am indeed fortunate, as is our law school community, to have been a beneficiary of the example set by each of these individuals.

Each of these people who have been so influential over the course of my legal career exemplify common characteristics. Each is of the highest integrity, compassionate, even-tempered, civil in all discourse, a doer, a helper and a change maker. I love going to work each day because these characteristics continue to be reflected in my faculty colleagues and in my students. I am grateful to be part of a community of thinkers willing to address head-on the problems of our times with compassion and just consideration. I am thankful my children have had the opportunity to attend the University of Montana, and I am proud to be a graduate of the School of Law.