Author: Chris Starrs


Heather Ripley (BBA ’06, MAcc ’06) points to two of television’s most famous practicing attorneys as partial inspiration for future career plans.

“I got into ‘Matlock’ and ‘Perry Mason,’ thanks to my parents and my great grandmother,” says Ripley, a senior associate in Alston & Bird’s federal and international tax group in New York. “I later discovered I had no interest in doing criminal law, even though it’s very exciting on TV, but I thought about being a lawyer pretty early on.”

Earning her law degree from Harvard in 2009, Ripley joined Alston & Bird seven years ago and works on what she terms “U.S. tax law in an international context.”

“I work in planning and advising clients on how to comply with U.S. tax law and what they need to do to structure their investments efficiently,” she says.

Ripley also works in what the iconic law firm calls “tax controversy,” although she admits it’s not as spicy as it sounds, explaining the term specifically involves tax disputes, which don’t always mean litigation.

“We do a lot in that pre-court phase in negotiating with the IRS or shepherding clients through amnesty programs or settlement talks with the IRS,” says Ripley, an Atlanta native.

When she’s not at the firm, Ripley — who was a Foundation Fellow while at Georgia — enjoys painting and drawing and is quite accomplished, having sold many of her pieces. She creates works on commission and a few years ago painted a Bulldog statue — known as Terrell Archie Jackson — that still greets visitors to UGA’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

“It’s definitely a great outlet, using a slightly different part of my brain to do something that’s more hands-on,” she says. “I do still sell work, but being in a New York City apartment, I don’t have a place to stockpile work that I create.”

Last year, Ripley — who keeps in touch with the Terry alumni group in New York — was recognized as a 40 Under 40 honoree by the UGA Alumni Association.

“A friend of mine, who was a previous winner, nominated me. And then finding out I won was even more of a surprise, but a pleasant one, of course. I was pretty honored.”

Like many Terry alumni, Ripley says she was well prepared to assume the responsibilities of her work thanks to her days on North Campus.

“Terry definitely prepared me for where I am now,” she says. “I was primed to do tax law after taking tax research with Dr. Ayers, now Dean Ayers, which may have been the first semester of my senior year. But even before that, I had great professors who were very invested in me as a person and professionally. I was a teaching assistant to Dr. Linda Bamber. That was a great experience to be in a position of addressing complicated concepts in more easily digestible ways, which is essentially my day job.”