How to find out if you would really like law?

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LateNight
Posts: 136
Joined: Fri Apr 30, 2010 4:08 am

How to find out if you would really like law?

Postby LateNight » Tue May 18, 2010 1:57 am

Hello everyone,

I am considering become a lawyer, in a lose sense. I want to know how you figured out that you would truly love / enjoy your line of work inspite of the fact you almost have to have a law degree (and shell out the cash that comes with obtaining that degree) before you can even practice law.

The law that I think would appeal to me is: Tax Law and Election Law. The former being the purely practical detail oriented side of me and the latter being kind of a dreamy job for my interests.

However, I have no idea if I would REALLY like these types of work. I have taken numbers of jobs that I thought would be killer only to find that the realities of employment made them less than ideal. What steps can someone like myself, who has had professional work experience, take to find out if the actual practice of law is something that I could tolerate before I spend money on getting a law degree.

I know that summer internships might give me a good idea if I would enjoy certain aspects of the work. However, most internships are available to people who have already paid a significant amount of money on their first 1 to 2 years of school.

What made you think/know that you absolutely had to be a lawyer? I do not want to hear answers relating to money, as in you knew you would become uberrich because this is irrelevant to me and rarely the case in reality for graduates.

What can I do, right now, to make myself certain that I would enjoy the field? I have highly enjoyed all 5 of the law classes I took as an undergrad, constitutional law and criminal law, but I doubt this is highly correlative to a law school / practice experience.



Sorry if this is really long.

Thank you!


Note: I edited this post for grammatical errors. Like 5 times. lol. Don't take LSAT on painkillers kids.
Last edited by LateNight on Tue May 18, 2010 2:07 am, edited 4 times in total.

LateNight
Posts: 136
Joined: Fri Apr 30, 2010 4:08 am

Re: How to find out if you would really like law?

Postby LateNight » Tue May 18, 2010 2:00 am

Sorry if this isn't the best or most logical writing. I just got four teeth yanked out and am on some pretty heavy painkillers. :(

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Dustin.
Posts: 49
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Re: How to find out if you would really like law?

Postby Dustin. » Tue May 18, 2010 2:27 am

You could get a position doing paralegal work at a large firm. That might give you some insight into legal work/firm culture.

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1ferret!
Posts: 280
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Re: How to find out if you would really like law?

Postby 1ferret! » Tue May 18, 2010 2:43 am

take a legal assistant/paralegal/file clerk job in a law office. Would give you an idea of what its all about. Will also give you the chance to talk to more attorneys and get their impressions about what they do, how they feel about it, what its like etc...Could also work for a political officer, although that kind of experience is pretty different from the normal day to day of a practicing atty.

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SteelReserve
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Re: How to find out if you would really like law?

Postby SteelReserve » Tue May 18, 2010 11:32 am

First off, glad to see you actually are trying to know what a lawyer does before you go to school, unlike most students.

With regard to tax, that is different from a lot of lawyering since it is mostly sort of 'transactional' or 'calculation' based. There may be some litigation with the IRS but for the most part it will be clean, plain, checking people's assets/income and determining what deductions they can get, etc.

To know if you're interested in that, go to the local library or go online somewhere and read the federal tax code. If you don't think you'd like learning the shit out of that code and applying it to people's specific instances, then tax isn't for you.

With regard to litigation or other lawyering, ask yourself if you enjoy reading case law, summarizing a case, research, writing. Just know lawyering is principally a desk job done at the computer screen in Lexis and Microsoft word. If that doesn't appeal to you, law is not your thing.

The only exception here is the low-paying but court room oriented jobs such as public defenders, insurance defense, plaintiff's work. All pay low but the job isn't 100% paper work. You won't do many trials but you will still make court appearances, argue summary judgment motions, do settlement conferences, meet with inmates for habeas appeals, etc.

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NayBoer
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Re: How to find out if you would really like law?

Postby NayBoer » Tue May 18, 2010 1:57 pm

Bear in mind that it's hard to get into tax law without an LLM or at least a CPA. It's one of the more knowledge-intensive specialties of law. It's also somewhat saturated with LLMs, so don't look at it as an escape hatch from the economy.

SteelReserve wrote:With regard to tax, that is different from a lot of lawyering since it is mostly sort of 'transactional' or 'calculation' based. There may be some litigation with the IRS but for the most part it will be clean, plain, checking people's assets/income and determining what deductions they can get, etc.

To know if you're interested in that, go to the local library or go online somewhere and read the federal tax code. If you don't think you'd like learning the shit out of that code and applying it to people's specific instances, then tax isn't for you.
This describes an accountant, not a tax lawyer.
accountant : tax lawyer :: nurse : surgeon

Tax law is actually more flexible and contentious and a lot of it involves arguing over characterization. Tax is not just a lot of simple answers. There's an enormous volume of decisions that the IRS has to make every year on how to characterize income and assets, how to categorize corporations and partnerships, distinguishing capital from personal, etc. It's not all simple and straightforward.

Here's a more in-depth description of the various avenues of tax practice, from Prof. Caron who writes Taxprof Blog.
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm? ... id=1577966

Business Taxation: Business tax lawyers advise clients regarding the structure of prospective
business transactions and tax aspects of business operations. Since the tax work develops
from business transactions, this type of tax practice is subject to the ups and downs of
corporate and real estate transactional practice, which leads to less predictable work hours
than in other areas of tax practice. Also, when the flow of corporate and real estate
transactions decreases (during a recession, for example), there is a corresponding decrease in
the volume of business tax planning work. At these times, however, the volume of
bankruptcy tax work often increases. Students who are interested in this specialty area
should take corporate tax, partnership tax, international tax, taxation of real estate
transactions, and taxation of mergers and acquisitions, and might consider taking business tax
electives such as bankruptcy tax and taxation of intellectual property. Also, they should
consider taking relevant experiential learning courses, such as transaction-related tax clinics
or advanced business tax planning courses that simulate tax planning for business
transactions.

Employee Benefits: Employee benefits lawyers help clients design and implement
employment benefit plans for their workers. They must be expert in ERISA and tax law
relating to executive compensation. Students who are interested in this specialty area should
take courses in employee pensions and benefits, executive compensation, tax-exempt
organizations, and the taxation of mergers and acquisitions. They also should consider
taking relevant experiential learning courses, such as (1) externships with the Employee
Benefits Security Administration (ESBA) or divisions of the IRS Chief Counsel’s office that
specialize in employee benefits, and (2) advanced benefits courses that simulate employee
benefit plan design and implementation.

Estate Planning: Estate planning lawyers design and implement estate plans. They collect
information from their clients, draft trust instruments, wills and other documents, and oversee
the filing of gift, estate, and generation-skipping tax returns. They also may handle probate
matters. This type of practice often is a good fit for attorneys who like a lot of personal
contact with individual clients. Students who are interested in this specialty area should take
courses in wills and trusts, estate and gift taxation, income taxation of trusts and estates,
probate planning and procedure, tax-exempt organizations, and advanced estate planning
electives such as planned giving, international estate planning, or estate planning for highnet-
worth clients. They should also look for experiential learning courses that simulate the
development and drafting of a comprehensive estate plan.

International Taxation: International tax lawyers work on international business transactions
and advise U.S. and foreign clients on cross-border activities. Many business tax lawyers
have some international component to their practice, due to the prevalence of cross-border
business transactions, but international tax specialists have additional expertise in the U.S.
and non-U.S. taxation of international transactions. Although it would be impossible for U.S.
international tax lawyers to know all of the tax laws of every foreign jurisdiction, they
generally have expertise in (1) tax treaties between the U.S. and its major treaty partners, and
(2) the foreign tax rules that most commonly affect U.S. and multinational clients. The best
international tax lawyers are skilled business tax lawyers, with their international tax
expertise layered on top of their business tax expertise. Students who are interested in this
specialty area should take as many courses as possible in international tax (including courses
in tax treaties and value-added taxes if offered) along with foundational business tax courses
in corporate tax, partnership tax, taxation of mergers and acquisitions, and taxation of
intellectual property. They also should also look for relevant experiential learning courses
that simulate tax planning for international business transactions. Students who decide to
practice in the international tax area often hope to find employment in the foreign office of a
major U.S. law firm. Fluency in a foreign language and family ties to a foreign country can
be helpful in this type of practice.

State and Local Taxation: State and local taxation is a niche practice area that often is
overlooked by students. State tax burdens from income taxes, sales and use taxes, and
property taxes are quite material in many states, but are sometimes an afterthought to tax
lawyers specializing in federal income taxation. Knowledgeable and creative state and local
tax lawyers can add great value by reducing their clients’ state and local tax burdens. The
“Big Four” accounting firms have the largest state and local tax practices, but many law
firms also have sophisticated state and local tax practices. Since many clients operate in
multiple states, state and local tax lawyers must know the tax law for many different types of
taxes (including the numerous tax credits offered by various states to stimulate business
investment) in many different jurisdictions. State and local tax practice can involve both tax
planning work and tax controversy work. Students considering international tax practice
might also consider state and local tax practice, as they both involve minimizing the total tax
burden to be shared among multiple taxing jurisdictions. Students who are interested in this
specialty area should take courses in state and local taxation, taxation of intellectual property,
and international taxation. They also should look for relevant experiential learning courses,
such as state tax clinics and externships with state taxing authorities.

Tax Controversies: As described above, tax controversy lawyers represent clients (either
taxpayers or taxing authorities) in tax disputes between taxpayers and taxing authorities. Tax
controversy work generally is considered less contentious than traditional litigation and does
not share civil litigation’s heavy discovery burden. This area of practice often appeals to
students who enjoy writing briefs and advocating for clients. Students who are interested in
this specialty area should take courses in tax practice and procedure and state and local
taxation. (Those who are interested in criminal tax practice also should take criminal tax
procedure if it is offered.) Students with an interest in controversy work also should consider
taking experiential learning courses, such as low-income taxpayer clinics (LITCs), IRS
clinics, and state tax clinics, or externship opportunities with the IRS, Department of Justice,
U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, or state taxing authorities. JD students who are interested in this
practice area also should consider taking JD-level trial advocacy and appellate advocacy
skills courses, and participating on moot court and trial advocacy teams. Tax LLM students
should consider participating in specialized tax moot court competitions, to help develop tax
controversy practice skills.

Tax-Exempt Organizations: Tax lawyers specializing in tax-exempt organizations (EO)
advise nonprofit clients such as hospitals, universities, religious institutions, various other
types of charities and public interest organizations, community foundations, and private
foundations on the tax laws and state corporate laws governing tax-exempt organizations.
The work generally is transactional in nature, and many EO specialists work in-house for
such organizations. Students who are interested in this specialty area should take courses in
tax-exempt organizations, nonprofit corporate governance, and planned giving. Also,
prospective EO lawyers who expect to have a sophisticated practice should take corporate tax
and partnership tax courses, to help prepare them to (1) create complex structures for exempt
entities and (2) structure joint ventures between exempt entities and taxable entities. In
addition, students with an interest in EO should consider taking relevant experiential learning
courses, such as nonprofit transactional clinics or externship opportunities with state attorney
general’s offices, relevant divisions of the IRS Office of Chief Counsel, or legal departments
of nonprofit organizations.

LateNight
Posts: 136
Joined: Fri Apr 30, 2010 4:08 am

Re: How to find out if you would really like law?

Postby LateNight » Tue May 18, 2010 11:07 pm

Just called an old business partner who is a partner at a firm in Chicago that specializes in tax and election law.

I am getting a summer internship with him, he was very happy to have me contact him and will take me under his wing and show me the ins and outs of the business.

Thank you for your advice.

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baby lawyer
Posts: 13
Joined: Wed May 19, 2010 10:44 am

Re: How to find out if you would really like law?

Postby baby lawyer » Wed May 19, 2010 11:12 am

Good luck and you're doing the right thing - first hand experience is the BEST way to see if you can handle or enjoy that line of work.

LateNight
Posts: 136
Joined: Fri Apr 30, 2010 4:08 am

Re: How to find out if you would really like law?

Postby LateNight » Sun May 23, 2010 3:02 am

Just updating this thread.

I talked to my friend, whom I knew from my past job, and I got an internship for a few months after I graduate in December!

He is a partner at a medium/small firm (20 people). Interestingly, he said they laid off 4 associates due to bad economy and hadn't hired any new lawyers in 3 years. They just now hired a 2L for a summer internship.

I talked to my friend for an hour on the phone and he was really excited that I was thinking about law school. He didn't guarantee any type of pay with the internship, which I don't care about since this is more of a learning experience and will have some loan money left over, but said he could definitively use the help with his cases. We had worked together in the past on election law stuff, but his primary focus is property tax law.

He went to Georgetown (in the late 70s) and worked in biglaw in Chicago for 6 years before moving to a smaller firm. He gave me some great insight into big-law vs small-law culture and it was most interesting. I am super excited about this! Thank you guys.

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PDaddy
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Re: How to find out if you would really like law?

Postby PDaddy » Sun May 23, 2010 3:35 am

Sue someone pro se and do all of the work on your own. That will tell you.

makaf2000
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Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 2:20 pm

Re: How to find out if you would really like law?

Postby makaf2000 » Tue May 25, 2010 9:14 pm

Law pracice for attorneys is a very painstaking, tedious work. If you are really good in putting long hours on your own, make few to non-mistakes (strong attention to details), have a constant burden of making sure you don't screw up because you are fully responsible for your work product (malpractice issues), going to ethics trainings often, keeping up with CLE, not having time for your family and friends, cope with constant stress form work, clients, partners, etc. Then you are good. You need to have a very thick skin in this profession. This is one of the most stressful professions and pressure is high. If you can cope with that strss, if you can keep your cool, don't panic, redo things over again, then it would be a very intellectually stimulating journey for you. On the positive side - some attorney jobs don't pay much but offer mor einteresting and fun environment - government jobs like state's attorney office, public defender, public interest, teching somewhere. I mean, it is hard to predict, you might find your niche that you will like and enjoy. Can't say more, really.




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