Photo: Sergio  Pareja

Sergio  Pareja

Professor of Law


  • B.A. 1991, University of California at Berkeley
  • J.D. 1996, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Member of the Indiana and Colorado Bars

Contact Information

 Ph.: 505-277-0995
 Office: 3124


Sergio Pareja served as dean of UNM School of Law for seven years, from 2015 to 2022. From 2015 to 2018 he was one of two co-deans (with Alfred Mathewson), and he served as the sole dean of the law school from 2018 to 2022. He currently holds the Henry Weihofen Chair at the School of Law.

Pareja joined the law faculty at UNM in 2005 after nearly nine years in private practice in Colorado and Indiana. Most recently, Pareja was a partner in the tax department at a large Denver law firm. While in private practice, he specialized in federal individual and corporate income tax planning, state and local tax matters, and estate and gift tax planning.

As a UNM School of Law faculty member, Pareja primarily teaches courses in the areas of business, tax, and estate planning. Since he started teaching, he has taught Federal Income Tax, Contracts, Practicum, Estate and Gift Tax, Taxation of Business Enterprises, International Business Transactions, Wills & Trusts, and Estate & Retirement Planning. He also taught in the law school's Business & Tax Clinic (now called the Economic Justice Clinic).

Pareja's recent research interests include testamentary capacity and trust income taxation issues. He also writes in the area of estate and gift taxation, with a focus on liquidity issues.

Pareja is very dedicated to giving students the opportunity to live in other countries while studying law. He has taught in and directed the Guanajuato Summer Law Institute in Guanajuato, Mexico. Pareja also is the founding director of the ABA-approved Madrid Summer Law Institute. Professor Pareja continues to direct and teach in this successful program, which offers students the opportunity to study law in Spain during the month of June.

Pareja is a highly dedicated teacher. In 2011, he was identified by The National Jurist as one of the top law teachers in the country: The Bucket List: 23 Law Profs to Take Before You Die. In 2013, Pareja was honored by the University of New Mexico with a university-wide "Outstanding Teacher of the Year" award. In addition to teaching at the University of New Mexico, Pareja has taught in the University of Alabama's tax LL.M program.

Outside of his interests in the law, Pareja is a dedicated guitarist who has performed at UNM Hospital through the innovative Arts-in-Medicine program. Pareja is even known to play his guitar in class on occasion.


Contracts I

In an industrial society characterized by a "free enterprise" system and notions of individual freedom, "contract" is one of the primary means by which private individuals order their affairs. The contracts course inquires into why promises are enforced as contracts, which promises are enforced, and how they are enforced. The course places emphasis on close and critical analyses of court decisions.

Business and Tax Clinic

Pre-requisite: Completion of first year curriculum. Pre- or co-requisite: Ethics.
Preference: Completion of Federal Income Tax and any Business Law courses.

This clinic section is part of the law school's Economic Development program.  Although specific types of client matters cannot be guaranteed, the Business and Tax Clinic will emphasize the following:

  • student representation of low-income taxpayers in disputes before the IRS and the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department, including Tax Court litigation, audit defense, and collections matters;
  • assistance to startup and established nonprofit organizations seeking IRS recognition of tax-exempt status and other operational assistance;
  • support of community-based efforts to promote economic development; and
  • legal services to low-income, small-business clients who cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

Small-business cases will likely include the following:

  • giving advice on the choice and formation of business entities;
  • drafting organizational documents;
  • reviewing and drafting leases, purchase and licensing arrangements and other contracts; and
  • resolving business disputes.

Cases and instruction will also include matters of personal interest to a new lawyer seeking to open his or her own practice.  We strive to provide a broad-spectrum experience, including pure transactional practice (small business startup, contract drafting), dispute resolution (IRS controversy, small case business controversies) and consumer protection (bankruptcy, foreclosure defense and consumer credit dispute resolution).  

Clients of the law school’s Clinical Law Program include individuals and organizations that have multiple legal and non-legal needs and objectives.  Students of the Business and Tax Clinic often collaborate with students of the Community Lawyering Clinic or Southwest Indian Law Clinic in providing services to these clients.

Students will be required (1) to attend and actively participate in up to five classroom sessions (ten during summer’s first three weeks) during each week of the academic semester and (2) to maintain, in addition to classroom hours, a schedule of 24 (2-hours block) fixed office hours (physically present in the clinic, working on clinic matters) each week during Summer, or 16 (2-hours block) fixed office hours each week during Fall and Spring semesters.

Estate and Retirement Planning

Course Description

Estate and Retirement Planning is a survey course in which students begin to learn how individuals may arrange their affairs such that:

  1. An individual's wealth and well-being will be managed adequately during his or her lifetime, even if the individual becomes incapacitated.
  2. The individual's wealth will pass efficiently (a) through life-time gifts or upon the individual's death to those persons the individual chooses, and (b) in a manner that minimizes taxes and expenses and takes into account the special needs a particular beneficiary may have.

The course begins with an overview of how property passes at death through the use of wills, trusts, and beneficiary designations or by operation of law. Next is an introduction to estate, gift and income tax considerations in transferring wealth gratuitously. Building on that foundation, the remainder of the course (1) focuses on selected planning issues and on strategies that individuals and couples may use to preserve and transfer wealth gratuitously, and (2) introduces students to aspects of retirement planning, life insurance and annuities, charitable giving and other topics.

As its name suggests, Estate Planning is a planning course and combines theory with practice. Students learn through readings, sample documents, problem sets, drafting, and class discussion. The course grade is based primarily on writing assignments that require students to draft and explain documents an estate planning attorney is likely to use in practice. Unless taught by an adjunct professor, the course satisfies the law school writing requirement.

Federal Estate and Gift Tax

This course provides an overview of the federal gift tax and federal estate tax. Topics covered include the concept of a gift for federal gift tax purposes, when a gift occurs, components of the gross estate, estate tax deductions, and computation of the gift tax and estate tax. The matters covered in class are illustrated by examples drawn from current estate planning techniques. This course also covers policy issues surrounding proposals for permanent repeal of the estate tax.

Federal Income Tax

The goals of the course are for the student to acquire: (1) a broad perspective as to the application and impact of the federal income tax in a variety of transactions; (2) practice in using the legal materials of taxation, especially the Internal Revenue Code and Treasury Regulations; and (3) an understanding of the policies underlying various IRC provisions, i.e., how the tax system is used to influence behavior and thus promote various social and economic policies.

International Business Transactions

The goal of this course is to familiarize students with the transactional, regulatory, and litigation issues that affect international business through the use of hypothetical fact patterns. With respect to international transactions, we will explore the international sale of goods, international contract issues, international investments, cross-border financings, and international franchises. With respect to international disputes, we will focus on contract rights and remedies, choice of law, choice of forum, and international arbitration. Where appropriate, the course will focus on business transactions in Latin America.


This class introduces you to the work and professional roles of lawyers. It investigates the meaning of professionalism; examines the role of personal and professional values in becoming and being a lawyer; and discusses various aspects of legal practice, including ways to improve your likelihood of success and happiness in your career.

As background, empirical studies show that lawyers who pick their fields carefully based upon their own strengths and needs are happier and do better in the profession overall. Other studies show that multitasking and excessive stress interfere with clear thinking. Indeed, calm focused people are better at what they do, whatever profession they enter. They are also more efficient and work better with others. Calm focused people are also happier and have a better sense of their own priorities and values. This class is designed to:

  • help you learn about the legal system and the professional role of attorneys;
  • help you create space in your life for activities that keep you balanced as a human being;
  • help you control stress and thus enhance your academic and professional success;
  • help you improve your interpersonal skills;
  • allow you to develop a support system at the law school by getting to know some of your peers in an unconventional setting; and
  • allow you to develop a relationship with a faculty member that is supportive both inside and outside the classroom.

Being a lawyer can be all you want it to be and can give you the power to bring about whatever change you want to see. This class will help prepare you to do just that.

Taxation of Business Enterprises

This course provides an overview of major federal income tax events with respect to business entities. These events include formations, contributions, operations, distributions, redemptions, and liquidations. The types of business entities covered in the course are entities that are taxed under federal law as Subchapter C corporations, Subchapter S corporations, and partnerships (including limited liability companies). This course will also consider policy issues related to the taxation of these business entities.

Wills and Trusts

Course Description

This course surveys the law of wills and trusts. Topics covered include intestate succession, will execution, will revocation, will contests, will substitutes, planning for incapacity, trusts, and problems arising during trust administration.  Students will be expected to draft a basic will.



Federal Income Taxation of Business Enterprises: Cases, Statutes, Rulings (4th ed. 2012) (co-authored with Westin and Beck).
Available at: UNM-DR

Federal Income Taxation of Business Enterprises: Cases, Statutes, Rulings (3th ed. 2010) (co-authored with Westin and Beck).

Treatise Chapter

Chapter 1N:2: Farm Expenses, LexisNexis Tax Advisor – Federal Topical (2007) (on-line).


The Incapacitated Grantor and the Revocable Trust: Unnecessary Tax Complexity and a Reform Proposal, 76 Tax Law. ____ (forthcoming spring 2023)

How The Über-Wealthy Benefit From Investing Outside Retirement Plans (And How You Can Too), 64 CATH. U. L. REV. 566 (2015).
Available at: UNM-DR

¡La Crisis! Desde una Perspectiva Jurídica: la Resistencia a la Regulación en los Estados Unidos, 11 IUSTEL REVISTA DEDERECHO PÚBLICO COMPARADO (December 2012).

It Taxes a Village: The Problem with Routinely Taxing Barter Transactions, 59 CATH. U. L. Rev. 3 (2010).
Available at: UNM-DR

Taxation Without Liquidation: Rethinking "Ability to Pay," 8 WIS. L. REV. 841 (2008).
Available at: UNM-DR

Sales Gone Wild: Will the FTC's Proposed Rule Put an End to Pyramid Marketing Schemes?, 39 MCGEORGE L. REV. 83 (2008).
Available at: UNM-DR

Environmental Clean-Up Expenses: Taxing Times for the BLM and Miners, 83 DENV. U. L. REV. 299 (2005).
Available at: UNM-DR

Estate Tax Repeal Under EGTRRA: A Proposal for Simplification, 38 REAL PROP. PROB. & TR.J. 73 (2003).
Available at: UNM-DR

Bar and Trade Publications

A Proposal to Limit the Deduction of Funeral Expense. TR. & EST. JOTWELL (forthcoming April 2023).

‘Til Death do we Vote: The Thorny Issue of Votes Cast by People who Die Before Election Day. TR. & EST. JOTWELL (April 11, 2022). Available at

Deconstructing Foundational Principles of Trusts and Estates Law, TR. & EST. JOTWELL (February 28, 2020).
Available at: UNM-DR

Using Emperical Studies as a Basis for Updating Intestacy Laws, TR. & EST. JOTWELL (March 15, 2018).
Available at: UNM-DR

Reviving the Dead Hand After Repeal of the Rule Against Perpetuities, TR. & EST. JOTWELL (April 25, 2016) .
Available at: UNM-DR

The Impact of Federal Law on a Decedent’s Digital Assets, TR. & EST. JOTWELL (March 9, 2015).
Available at: UNM-DR

Selecting a Trust Situs in the 21st Century, PROB. & PROP. (2002) (co-authored with John A. Warnick).
Available at: UNM-DR

Slow Legislative Year for Probate Matters, IND. LAW. (June 23, 1999) (co-authored with Kristin G. Fruehwald).

Electing to Treat a Revocable Trust as Part of a Decedent’s Estate, IND. LAW. (April 14, 1999) (co-authored with Kristin G. Fruehwald).

The QTIP Election for Indiana Inheritance Tax Purposes, IND. LAW. (January 6, 1999) (co-authored with Kristin G. Fruehwald).

Deadlines are Hot Topic of Recent Court Decisions, IND. LAW. (October 14, 1998) (co-authored with Kristin G. Fruehwald).

The Impact of Disclaimers on Estate Planning, IND. LAW. (July 22, 1998) (co-authored with Kristin G. Fruehwald).

Charitable Lead Trusts—An Overlooked Estate Planning Tool, IND. LAW. (April 29, 1998) (co-authored with Kristin G. Fruehwald).

Roth IRAs May Provide New Estate Planning Opportunities, IND. LAW. (February 18, 1998) (co-authored with Kristin G. Fruehwald).

Popular Press

Letting Tax Cuts Expire Will Take Courage, ALBUQUERQUE J. (October 21, 2010).

Cut Tax Credits, Not Just Budget, ALBUQUERQUE J. (November 1, 2009).

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