Kimberly Robinson’s passion for justice and improving people’s lives is what attracted her to the practice of law. Few would assume her area of expertise—tax law—could be the means to feed those passions.
But Robinson, a partner at Jones Walker, sees it differently.
She works with businesses looking to relocate or expand in Louisiana. She helps inform them of incentives and their tax liability. Tax law and policies can spur business growth, bettering an entire community with new job opportunities and more.
“So many people think family law directly impacts people. It does. But it impacts one family,” she says. Not so with tax law: “It has an impact on so many lives.”
Robinson saw this firsthand after law school while working as a judicial clerk for Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Bernette Johnson.
“There will always be more case law and policy in larger states such as New York, California, Illinois. You have more guidance there. But in Louisiana we hadn’t gotten to that point,” she says of that period from 1998 to 2000 when she worked in the courts.
From there, she joined the Louisiana Department of Revenue, where she helped create the Policy Services Division. The experience gave her a different vantage point from which to observe business policy in action.
Says Robinson: “It was like going from 10,000 feet to ground level in creating the policy position and litigating the case yourself.”
She worked for the state agency from 2000 to 2006 as the assistant secretary for the Office of Legal Affairs and as Confidential Assistant to then-Secretary Cynthia Bridges.
“Kimberly’s dedication to Louisiana’s economic growth was evident through her tireless efforts to drive new business opportunities to the state during her tenure at the Department,” wrote Bridges, now executive director of the California Board of Equalization, in nominating Robinson for recognition.”Her combined knowledge of tax law, policy, and business are unparalleled.”
Following her tenure at the Department of Revenue, Robinson was appointed special counsel and senior adviser on economic development, insurance, and revenue policy to Gov. Kathleen Blanco in 2006 after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
“When you have a disaster the size of Katrina, followed up 30 days later with Rita, there are a lot of issues,” Robinson says.
The disasters dictated the priorities. She applied her knowledge of the law to interpret FEMA’s disaster recovery provisions and address the immediate need for housing. “This was bigger than one person or one issue,” she says.
Insurance also became a major issue as providers wanted to pull out of the state. “Homeowners were concerned. Same for businesses,” she says. “You can’t rebuild without insurance.”
Robinson played a critical role in crafting policy to keep all of the major insurers at the table, as well as explaining to risk-modelers that infrastructure improvements— such as adopting international building code standards—were being put into place.
She also utilized her tax policy expertise.
“No one thinks taxes are important [to business development]. But there were a lot of companies outside of Louisiana that had pending contracts, such as audit assessments, with lawyers and accountants in New Orleans,” she says. She helped create a mechanism for those attorneys and accountants to connect with their out-of-state clients.
Since those hectic days, she believes Louisiana is better poised to attract new businesses. One of the biggest economic development challenges she sees is quality public education in the state.
To that end, she is a founding board member of Inspire Charter Academy, a public charter school for grades K-8. Current enrollment is 645 students.
To aspiring businesswomen in Baton Rouge, Robinson offers this advice: “Start where you are. Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves. Just find what you are passionate about. And go forward.”