Tax Law - What to Do

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Anonymous User
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Tax Law - What to Do

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 20, 2011 4:20 pm

Just wrapped up 2L year and I've decided I actually like tax and wouldn't mind making a career out of it. I have decent grades (roughly top 1/3 now; on pace to finish around top 1/4 or 1/5, but I got killed by a couple unfortunate 1L grades) at a T20 school. I also have a 3.9 average in my tax courses. I also struck out at OCI this year, and I'm spending my 2L summer at the same small, local firm I spent my 1L summer.

Here are some questions going through my mind, feel free to answer any/all of them, or offer other points I should consider.

(1) Should I tell firms from the outset I want to do tax? My hunch is that this could help me get a job, since there are presumably fewer people wanting to tax than general corporate stuff. But I could be wrong, and I'd be happy practicing in a number of other areas instead.
(2) Would any legit "biglaw" firm hire me straight out of LS and into their tax group, without an LLM?
(3) If I didn't want to work for the IRS or clerk on a tax court, would their still be opportunities to practice tax?
(4) If it's possible to go straight from LS into the tax group at a large firm, who is a better person to network with right now: a fellow alum at the firm or somebody in the firm's tax group?

And again, if you have any other thoughts besides what I've mentioned, feel free to share them.

mjr12
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Re: Tax Law - What to Do

Postby mjr12 » Mon Jun 20, 2011 6:39 pm

Anonymous User wrote:(3) If I didn't want to work for the IRS or clerk on a tax court, would their still be opportunities to practice tax?


Not sure about the other questions, but I know quite a few people who got jobs with big 4 accounting firms and ended up lateraling to firms. If you can't find a firm that will bring you into their tax practice, don't count out working for an accounting firm for a few years if tax is really what you want to do.

PeanutHead
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Re: Tax Law - What to Do

Postby PeanutHead » Tue Jun 21, 2011 9:28 am

Anonymous User wrote:1) Should I tell firms from the outset I want to do tax? My hunch is that this could help me get a job, since there are presumably fewer people wanting to tax than general corporate stuff. But I could be wrong, and I'd be happy practicing in a number of other areas instead.


I would tell them at the outset. At least it shows that you have a focused interest and the grades to back it up. At this point (rising 3L at non T14 and no biglaw job) you need to figure out a way to get in the door. Putting your interest in tax law in your cover letters at least sets you apart a little bit.

Anonymous User wrote:(2) Would any legit "biglaw" firm hire me straight out of LS and into their tax group, without an LLM


Of course. Plenty of people are in biglaw tax without LLMs. However the LLM is one way to set yourself apart from other candidates a little bit.

Anonymous User wrote:(3) If I didn't want to work for the IRS or clerk on a tax court, would their still be opportunities to practice tax?


Of course. However I think that you will find in the tax law world that there is a significant amount of transition between public and private sector and that public sector experience is pretty valuable. That being said getting a job at IRS is pretty tough. A tax LLM from NYU or GULC has kind of become a de facto requirement for clerking on tax court.

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Re: Tax Law - What to Do

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 21, 2011 12:19 pm

Different question (not OP): How easy is it to move into tax from a non-tax focus at biglaw? I'm a rising 2L with no tax background (no CPA, etc.) but some math background and suspect I will find tax interesting. Obviously, I can't justify saying I would be interested in tax to a firm, having not even taken tax yet, but I would like to leave the possibility open. I'm in a position where I'm confident I will be able to land an SA position next summer (top 10% at CCN), so that's not in question.

Should do general corporate transactional work as an SA and try to move into tax later if I find it interesting in school? Or is it really not possible to move into tax without starting out as a tax attorney? (In which case I figure I'd have to do a tax LLM immediately after graduation if I decide on tax law.) General advice?

Anonymous User
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Re: Tax Law - What to Do

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 21, 2011 2:44 pm

OP here...

PeanutHead: Thanks for the tip/answers. I didn't say so explicitly, but I certainly recognize what an uphill battle I face to get any biglaw, not being from a T14 or having an SA.

Anon: Other people may be better qualified to answer these questions than me, but here's what I would say.

Anonymous User wrote:How easy is it to move into tax from a non-tax focus at biglaw? . . . is it really not possible to move into tax without starting out as a tax attorney?
Depends on the firm. I had a callback at a firm, and everybody there said the firm was super-flexible about shifting your practice groups. Several people shifted groups after 6 months to a year, and one person got the firm to let her start a brand-new practice group. But I've also heard from lawyers at other firms that you get pigeonholed into your practice from day 1.

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a rising 2L with no tax background (no CPA, etc.) but some math background and suspect I will find tax interesting.

Just an FYI, tax in LS doesn't involve much math. I too had a math background, but 90% of the calculations you do in a tax class are addition/subtraction. Occasionally you multiply/divide. I think once, I had to solve an equation along the lines of a/x=b/c. I like tax because my mind is comparatively better at applying a large number of black-and-white rules to a problem than it is to applying a few nebulous rules to a problem.

Anonymous User wrote:Obviously, I can't justify saying I would be interested in tax to a firm, having not even taken tax yet . . .

I disagree. Your 1L classes don't really prove an interest in any practice area. Firms know this. You wouldn't be laughed out of the room for saying you wanted to do M&A, even though you've yet to take any classes like Corps, M&A, or Securities. I had an interview with one attorney who worked in a products liability group. He says he didn't take a single class in LS to prepare him for PL work, other than 1L torts. So, I doubt they'd care if you said you were interested in tax, even though you haven't even taken baby tax yet. (Although, I imagine you wouldn't get put into the tax group if you went through all of LS without taking any tax.)

Anonymous User wrote:Should do general corporate transactional work as an SA and try to move into tax later if I find it interesting in school?

I'm pretty sure most SAs move around to multiple groups, or are able to get work assigned from any attorney at the firm (I never interviewed at a place that didn't follow one of those general models). One you get your SA, I think it's pretty easy to tell them you want to spend one of your rotations in tax, or ask to get assigned work from a tax attorney. (Btw, if you're seriously interested in tax, you should at least take baby tax as a 2L. No idea if this is typical for the people who go on to practice tax, but I took baby, corp, partnership, and estate tax as a 2L.)

Anonymous User wrote:In which case I figure I'd have to do a tax LLM immediately after graduation if I decide on tax law.

From PeanutHead's response and my additional research on the topic, it seems like an LLM is not strictly necessary for landing big law out of LS. However, it also sounds like most biglaw tax lawyers do have an LLM, either because their firm pays for them to get it, or because their firm expects them to get it. And for what it's worth, I've also read that LLM hiring may be worse than LS hiring. In other words, if you don't get biglaw out of law school, and LLM is unlikely to get you biglaw. (N.B.: it sounds like an LLM is becoming more of a pre-req for other tax jobs, like B4 accounting or tax court clerking.)

Anonymous User wrote:General advice?

I'd suggest taking baby tax in the fall. Several classmates of mine were intent on practicing tax until they got a B- in baby tax. But if you do well and like it, take corp tax in the spring. Corp tax is harder, mostly because the rules are less familiar, but it's nowhere near as hard as partnership tax. Those classes will give you a decent enough foundation to handle a couple tax assignments at your SA, and you'll also come away with a good understanding of whether tax is right for you long-term.

Anonymous User
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Re: Tax Law - What to Do

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 21, 2011 2:55 pm

Thanks for the advice! Unfortunately, we select all of our courses for the year over the summer, so I wouldn't be able to know whether I like tax or not before choosing classes for the spring. (I think it's an incredibly dumb system, but that's how it is.) Right now I plan on taking baby tax in the spring since fall or spring doesn't really matter and there's a more popular professor teaching it in the spring. Otherwise, though, very helpful.

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nealric
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Re: Tax Law - What to Do

Postby nealric » Tue Jun 21, 2011 8:12 pm

Here are some questions going through my mind, feel free to answer any/all of them, or offer other points I should consider.

(1) Should I tell firms from the outset I want to do tax? My hunch is that this could help me get a job, since there are presumably fewer people wanting to tax than general corporate stuff. But I could be wrong, and I'd be happy practicing in a number of other areas instead.
(2) Would any legit "biglaw" firm hire me straight out of LS and into their tax group, without an LLM?
(3) If I didn't want to work for the IRS or clerk on a tax court, would their still be opportunities to practice tax?
(4) If it's possible to go straight from LS into the tax group at a large firm, who is a better person to network with right now: a fellow alum at the firm or somebody in the firm's tax group?



Tax lawyer here:

1) If you want to do tax, by all means tell them you want to do tax. Make sure you tailor your resume in a way that shows your tax focus. There may be numerically fewer people wanting to do tax, but there are also far fewer tax openings in large firms. It's not an easy nut to crack.

2) Yes. It's actually rare for 1st year tax associates to have an LLM.

3) Yes, there is the Big4 accounting firms. However, most of the big4 branch office jobs are not much different from what they give undergrad accounting majors. National office jobs are harder to come by and require specialization very early on. With the exception of a few boutiques, small firm tax is generally a very different beast than large firm tax- not just the work environment, but the parts of the tax code you will likely be working with.

4) Both. Why choose?




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