MFA in Creative Writing

A Center for Literary Arts and Publishing Practice

Christopher Perkowski, 2002

Christopher Perkowski

Tell us about your career.

I’m an attorney with the Tax Credit Finance & Syndication group at Nixon Peabody LLP. Basically, my job is to help structure transactions that leverage tax credits to get projects like charter schools, health care facilities, and commercial/mixed-use developments up and running in low-income communities. I like to say that it’s one of the few practices in a big law firm that lets you work for the good guys.

Becoming a lawyer wasn’t really my plan – after getting my BA I went straight into the MFA program at Mason and then worked as a writer/editor for America Online for a while. At some point I decided to give law school a shot, and everything clicked. The truth is that law school’s not too bad if you’re a careful reader and can write well.

What was your concentration in the English Department at Mason?

My official concentration as an undergrad was fiction, but pretty early on I took Intro to Creative Writing with Jennifer Atkinson, and I realized I wanted to be a poet. Still do!

How has something you learned in the Mason English Department helped you in your career?

As an English major at Mason I learned to engage with literature, to read it carefully, to understand the traditions and see how writers embrace or resist them, and to form persuasive arguments about what it all might mean. The practice of law requires the exact same skills, so it was an almost effortless transition for me. I’m also convinced that with a solid background in English you can do well no matter where you end up (except, maybe, in accounting). There are a lot of people out there who aren’t used to thinking critically and can’t write to save their lives, so English majors have an advantage.

What do you like about your job?

The best thing about my job is that I get to play a role in funding projects that have a positive impact on communities that really need the help. And though I hesitate to admit this, I also really enjoy drafting legal documents, which have their own bizarre rules and conventions. Where else is it acceptable to say “X does hereby mortgage, give, grant, bargain, sell, alien, enfeoff, convey, confirm, pledge, assign and hypothecate to Y,” when “X hereby mortgages to Y” would have done just fine? There are also moments when I’m translating a business point into legalese that allow me to flex my creative muscles a bit, and everything can turn on where you put the comma or which adjective you choose. It’s like writing poetry, without all that beauty and brevity.