Best place to start a career in tax

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Best place to start a career in tax

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 15, 2011 10:47 am

Tax seems to be divided between the small boutique firms (Roberts & Holland, Caplin & Drysdale) and a few high-powered big firms with strong tax practices (Cleary, SullCrom). I'm in a position to have at least a good chance at each of these firms, but I'm unsure which I should be pushing for harder. Is it easier/better to start a career in tax at a big firm and then move out later on, or is it better to start in a small, specialized firm? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each approach?

It seems like the boutiques have a lot of people coming and going all of the time, which makes it seem like moving from a big firm to a boutique five years out would be relatively simple. Whereas, of course, a long-term career in biglaw is unlikely to happen. But is getting the biglaw experience important to success? Does it create more exit options, or fewer?

Thanks for your insights!

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Re: Best place to start a career in tax

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 16, 2011 7:04 pm

Anyone?

BeautifulSW
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Re: Best place to start a career in tax

Postby BeautifulSW » Sat Jul 16, 2011 7:25 pm

This is the wrong forum. I don't think that there are more than a few posters actually working as lawyers in big law and of them just a couple know anything about tax. Go check out http://www.taxtalent.com Tax people who actually hire other tax people post there and you will find it a friendly and helpful group. The only criticism I have is that the mentors sometimes seem to have a "Invest in Yourself!" boosterism attitude that glosses over the ENORMOUS financial risk of earning a J.D. or LL.M. But they offer a lot of very solid advice as well.

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Dany
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Re: Best place to start a career in tax

Postby Dany » Sat Jul 16, 2011 7:36 pm

Man their forum is difficult to navigate.

RCRARollin
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Re: Best place to start a career in tax

Postby RCRARollin » Sat Jul 16, 2011 8:01 pm

BeautifulSW wrote:This is the wrong forum. I don't think that there are more than a few posters actually working as lawyers in big law and of them just a couple know anything about tax. Go check out http://www.taxtalent.com Tax people who actually hire other tax people post there and you will find it a friendly and helpful group. The only criticism I have is that the mentors sometimes seem to have a "Invest in Yourself!" boosterism attitude that glosses over the ENORMOUS financial risk of earning a J.D. or LL.M. But they offer a lot of very solid advice as well.


I agree that taxtalent is a better resource than TLS for tax-oriented advice. However, that doesn't say much. The advice there is never that in-depth and is frequently wrong or based on conjecture. I guarantee that "HiringManager" and "CareerCoach," the two 'mentors,' will say go BigLaw because that is always their advice if it is an option.

My suggestion would be to ask some associates at a firm like CapDrys why they chose the firm when they were making the same decision. Worst case scenario: they ignore your inquiry. Best case scenario: you get a response from someone who actual understands the decision as they had to make it once themselves and are not some lonely TTT-reject posting anonymously in forums.

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AreJay711
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Re: Best place to start a career in tax

Postby AreJay711 » Sat Jul 16, 2011 8:26 pm

Well, I'll talk out of my ass here but in general -- as in beyond just law firms -- you want to go to the most recognized firm you can even if the work isn't as good as a less well known firm. That was the advice given to me by a managing director at Goldman and not particularly about law or tax but at least is something to consider. He said it will give you way more options down the road which seems to be right about law too.

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thesealocust
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Re: Best place to start a career in tax

Postby thesealocust » Sat Jul 16, 2011 8:29 pm

Honestly, the answer might be the finance committee, ways & means, joint committee on taxation, or Treasury.

Otherwise know that a big firm doing tax will often be doing pieces of tax work on other deals while smaller boutiques will be getting discrete and important tax issues. You'll obviously be doing tax in either place, but being a 'support group' at a big firm will have pros and cons.

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Re: Best place to start a career in tax

Postby bdubs » Sat Jul 16, 2011 9:04 pm

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Last edited by bdubs on Sun Jul 17, 2011 7:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Best place to start a career in tax

Postby bdubs » Sat Jul 16, 2011 9:10 pm

AreJay711 wrote:Well, I'll talk out of my ass here but in general -- as in beyond just law firms -- you want to go to the most recognized firm you can even if the work isn't as good as a less well known firm. That was the advice given to me by a managing director at Goldman and not particularly about law or tax but at least is something to consider. He said it will give you way more options down the road which seems to be right about law too.


I don't think this is the best advice for everyone. Lots of people who are more familiar with litigation on here will regularly recommend Boies, Susman, Bartlitt, etc.. over CSM, Sull Crom, Wachtell etc.. for those who clearly know they want to do litigation. These firms don't have the same name recognition as the V10, but they do offer more substantive opportunities for litigation focused associates. I would imagine that tax could be similar (high profile work goes to specialists) or it could be that the biglaw firms of the world have work opportunities that are on par with the specialists.

I think Sealocust has the right answer, try to talk to the associates at a specialist shop. You should be applying to both regardless.

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Re: Best place to start a career in tax

Postby PeanutHead » Sat Jul 16, 2011 9:27 pm

bdubs wrote:try to talk to the associates at a specialist shop.


Anyone know of other tax boutiques aside from Caplin?

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thesealocust
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Re: Best place to start a career in tax

Postby thesealocust » Sat Jul 16, 2011 9:35 pm

PeanutHead wrote:
bdubs wrote:try to talk to the associates at a specialist shop.


Anyone know of other tax boutiques aside from Caplin?


http://www.chambersandpartners.com/USA/ ... iceArea/49

Contains both big and little firms.

Also look into benefits practices and insurance practices, which can be very tax heavy (401(k) plan creation issues, insurance product creation, etc.)

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Re: Best place to start a career in tax

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 16, 2011 11:06 pm

Anonymous User wrote: It seems like the boutiques have a lot of people coming and going all of the time, which makes it seem like moving from a big firm to a boutique five years out would be relatively simple.


not sure where you are getting this from, but i was expressly told by roberts and holland that they hate taking laterals and prefer to groom associates directly from law school instead.

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Re: Best place to start a career in tax

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 17, 2011 12:09 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote: It seems like the boutiques have a lot of people coming and going all of the time, which makes it seem like moving from a big firm to a boutique five years out would be relatively simple.


not sure where you are getting this from, but i was expressly told by roberts and holland that they hate taking laterals and prefer to groom associates directly from law school instead.


I was basing this on Caplin, which has taken just as many laterals as SAs each of the past three years according to NALP, as well as their attorney bios, in which it seems like nearly every associate and partner worked somewhere else first. R&H doesn't have any breakdowns on NALP, so it's harder to get information on them, although looking through their attorney bios, you're right that they have no associates who started somewhere else.

Also not sure if Caplin is taking SAs this year; they say they're supposed to be at OCI at HLS, CLS and NYU, but I'm at one of those schools, and they're not at our OCI.

Thanks for pointing me to TaxTalent, will take a look tomorrow. Hopefully they have some useful insights.

RCRARollin
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Re: Best place to start a career in tax

Postby RCRARollin » Sun Jul 17, 2011 1:51 am

Anonymous User wrote: Thanks for pointing me to TaxTalent, will take a look tomorrow. Hopefully they have some useful insights.


Don't go until Monday. The forums "reset" each weekend and new posts aren't shown/posts aren't chronologically ordered except M-F.

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Re: Best place to start a career in tax

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 17, 2011 7:18 am

Caplin is coming to GULC this year. But there are very few interview spots.

BeautifulSW
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Re: Best place to start a career in tax

Postby BeautifulSW » Sun Jul 17, 2011 11:07 am

An awful lot of tax is being practiced out there, most of it below the Wall Street level. Thing is, lawyers aren't doing most of that tax, accountants are. At the mid to small law level, lawyers doing tax are mostly doing E&T and representation. The heavy planning and compliance fall to the local/regional CPA firms.

So if the goal is to "practice tax" and BigLaw is not a realistic option, a Master of Science in Taxation might be a better move than a J.D. It's sure a lot cheaper.

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nealric
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Re: Best place to start a career in tax

Postby nealric » Sun Jul 17, 2011 1:51 pm

Tax seems to be divided between the small boutique firms (Roberts & Holland, Caplin & Drysdale) and a few high-powered big firms with strong tax practices (Cleary, SullCrom). I'm in a position to have at least a good chance at each of these firms, but I'm unsure which I should be pushing for harder. Is it easier/better to start a career in tax at a big firm and then move out later on, or is it better to start in a small, specialized firm? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each approach?


I am a Tax associate at a biglaw firm that does not have a large tax practice. Although I can't compare my experience to more tax specialized firms, I think that going to a firm that does not have a large tax practice can actually be a fabulous learning experience. As an ancillary practice, we have to be prepared for whatever issues the other practice groups generate. This means exposure to a very broad array of tax issues- I may be working on structuring a litigation settlement one day, and doing research on a proposed merger the next. My sense is that associates at more tax heavy firms end up with a much more focused specialty early in their careers. Another advantage is that my firm has crazy low leverage in the tax department (more than twice as many partners/counsel as associates). This means I get every assignment directly from partners.

That said, if you can snag Caplin or Ivins, I would go for it. I have a friend at Caplin who loves it- Mortimer Caplin is also one of my personal heroes :D

I've directed people to taxtalent before, but I will say that it tends to be focused more on accounting firms and CPA-type positions. It's not quite as helpful for law firm focused people.

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Re: Best place to start a career in tax

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 17, 2011 4:48 pm

nealric wrote:
Tax seems to be divided between the small boutique firms (Roberts & Holland, Caplin & Drysdale) and a few high-powered big firms with strong tax practices (Cleary, SullCrom). I'm in a position to have at least a good chance at each of these firms, but I'm unsure which I should be pushing for harder. Is it easier/better to start a career in tax at a big firm and then move out later on, or is it better to start in a small, specialized firm? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each approach?


I am a Tax associate at a biglaw firm that does not have a large tax practice. Although I can't compare my experience to more tax specialized firms, I think that going to a firm that does not have a large tax practice can actually be a fabulous learning experience. As an ancillary practice, we have to be prepared for whatever issues the other practice groups generate. This means exposure to a very broad array of tax issues- I may be working on structuring a litigation settlement one day, and doing research on a proposed merger the next. My sense is that associates at more tax heavy firms end up with a much more focused specialty early in their careers. Another advantage is that my firm has crazy low leverage in the tax department (more than twice as many partners/counsel as associates). This means I get every assignment directly from partners.

That said, if you can snag Caplin or Ivins, I would go for it. I have a friend at Caplin who loves it- Mortimer Caplin is also one of my personal heroes :D

I've directed people to taxtalent before, but I will say that it tends to be focused more on accounting firms and CPA-type positions. It's not quite as helpful for law firm focused people.


Related questions for a biglaw tax lawyer:

1. You say your practice group is tiny and with low leverage--how likely is it in any given year that a spot will be open for tax? Or are they always interested in hiring people for tax, just there aren't always SAs interested in tax?
2. Similarly, do you think it is an advantage or disadvantage to mention an interest in tax right away in a screening interview or to hold off until the callback or after an SA offer is given?

Thanks for your help.

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nealric
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Re: Best place to start a career in tax

Postby nealric » Sun Jul 17, 2011 5:56 pm


Related questions for a biglaw tax lawyer:

1. You say your practice group is tiny and with low leverage--how likely is it in any given year that a spot will be open for tax? Or are they always interested in hiring people for tax, just there aren't always SAs interested in tax?
2. Similarly, do you think it is an advantage or disadvantage to mention an interest in tax right away in a screening interview or to hold off until the callback or after an SA offer is given?


1. The department takes a summer associate every other year or so. Some of it is luck of the draw (i.e. whether there is an opening). However, I get the impression that there is rarely more than one summer who really wants to do tax. The department will only take someone who preferences tax first (summers rank 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices).

2. You can mention tax at the screener, but if it's a firm with a small tax department, I would not give the impression that tax is all you are willing to do.




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