Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Anonymous User
Posts: 309456
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 06, 2016 1:59 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:NYU/G-Town Tax LLM student. Graduated from T40 top-third and mostly As/A-s in tax classes during JD. Some relevant tax experiences during law school (clinic, internships).

Received offers from 2 of Big 4 International in one of the major markets.

I'm curious about the following, especially international:

1) The nature of the work (structuring, compliance, controversy even with Sarbanes-Oxley)?
- Both firms seemed to sell that there won't be compliance work and mostly drafting legal memos for structuring work. I'm not buying it yet.
2) Career projections (promotions, exit ops),
- How long from associate to senior associate, then to manager? Are lawyers treated differently? Is Biglaw ever in the run?
3) Pay scale progression (Year to year raise %?, bonus %?)
- Ran excel spreadsheet based on some assumptions and it seems dismal at least until Manager, but I hope to be proven wrong.
4) Hours?? (Some say biglaw light, others say substantially better, some say as bad as biglaw w/o biglaw $)
- What time do you usually get out?? Weekends? Do you actually get to take vacations and have life? Assume NYC/DC. Again, work/life balance was what they were selling but it was hard to believe.

I ask because if I accept either of the offers, I won't be able to participate in TIP. Big dilemma, but it feels nice to have a job right now and not worry about this semester's grades.

Talked to A LOT OF big4 attorneys but I don't think I got an honest answer. All biglaw tax folks told me to turn them down but they all went to T6 and don't understand the struggles of a T40. Career Office is telling me to take it but I don't know what their incentives are. Thus the anonymous posting & asking for some TLS wisdom.


big4 tax here but not in international, in a major non nyc market.

1. Some lawyers get caught in the compliance b/c of staffing issues, usually because there arent enough cpas to do it. However it is entirely possible to do all consulting/controversy work.
2. Depends on at what level you come in as (associate or senior) but assuming the very bottom of the totem pole, 2-3 years to senior (depending on firm), then ~3 years to manager, and ~3-5 years to senior manager. Exit options from what I have seen are other accounting firms (obviously), biglaw tax (a little rare though), boutique law, inhouse tax counsel, in house tax manager/senior manager (i think this is more or less the same as in house tax counsel, but I am not sure...).
3. Raises and bonuses arent that great unless it is a promotion year and is based on a % which factors in firm and individual performance (supposedly).
4. From what I have seen, it is most definitely better than biglaw. Me and my big4 lawyer buddies do get an occasional crazy day/week but that isnt surprising. Overall from a lifestyle perspective I would say it is much better than biglaw, imo.

Your offer seems really good (much higher than most attorneys get at big4, even with LLMs), at least for the non-NYC markets. Maybe big4 is paying more these days...


OP here.

Thank you for the long answer. I don't want to out myself, but this is in NYC and I think that might be why the salary is slightly higher than other markets? (I mean, a tiny studio half the size of my garage back home in the midwest is $2500/month...). I'm looking at apartments right now and think I'll just commute from somewhere far out in Queens, like Elmhurst or something, to actually pay back loans if I were to accept...

When you say "controversy" though, what's the nature of the work? I'd imagine you can't go to court representing clients through a big 4. International arbitration maybe? Negotiations?

Based on many of the answers given on TLS including you, I think I'm just going to accept. If I like the job, I'll stay; if I don't, I'll try my best to lateral somewhere else. From my perspective as a student, the work seems very substantive and I would be happy to help out structuring deals both from legal and accounting perspectives, and I would imagine having solid numbers in the end to show to the client would be strength behind Big 4.


Previous anon poster here.

You are right we dont go to court but i would say the vast majority of our controversy gets settled at the administrative level anyway (IRS, CA FTB, various other department of revenues...). I think its pretty rare that a client would want to actually litigate because a lot of money has to be at stake and you have to pay the liability before you can even go to court. A lot of it is audit defense that requires a lot of research and writing. My big4 hires hires ex-biglaw including at the partner level to expand this practice group.

Hope everything works out for you, goodluck!


OP here.
You are right. Administrative levels anyway, and CPAs can represent there too so lawyers sure will have a role to play. Very excited about it!

Anonymous User
Posts: 309456
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 06, 2016 1:59 pm

ManoftheHour wrote:I don't mean to hijack your thread, but OP, can you PM me? I have a few questions about your program and career path if you don't mind.

Congrats on your offers!


Will PM (after finals!)

User avatar
nealric

Gold
Posts: 2745
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2009 9:53 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby nealric » Wed Dec 07, 2016 2:18 pm

Anonymous User wrote:You are right we dont go to court but i would say the vast majority of our controversy gets settled at the administrative level anyway (IRS, CA FTB, various other department of revenues...). I think its pretty rare that a client would want to actually litigate because a lot of money has to be at stake and you have to pay the liability before you can even go to court. A lot of it is audit defense that requires a lot of research and writing. My big4 hires hires ex-biglaw including at the partner level to expand this practice group.

Hope everything works out for you, goodluck!


You do not have to pay the liability before going to Tax Court. You have to pay the liability before litigating in the Court of Federal Claims or District Court.

But the main thrust is correct, few clients do significant amounts of federal tax litigation. Things are usually settled by administrative appeals. If it's a big issue, however, a lot of the legal heavy lifting may be handled by a biglaw firm that works with the Big4 firm.


As for the OP:

Your main options are: climb the Big4 latter, go government, or go in-house. In-house tends to hire a lot from Big4, as most people in a corporate tax department will be CPAs with Big4 backgrounds. The top of that career trajectory is VP Tax, although it's not terribly unusual for a tax attorney to end up in the legal department if that's where they want to go.

Staying in big4 is a bit like staying in biglaw, but it's even tougher to make partner as you have more ladders to climb and the structure is an even broader pyramid. However, you can hang out as Senior Manager for quite some time- it's not quite the same as failing to make partner in biglaw.

I think the trickiest thing in Big4 is to make sure you get substantive legal work. Really is going to depend on your specific group and location. Not the end of the world if you end up doing substantial amounts of compliance, but I think it's tough if you don't also have an accounting background and are comfortable with a primarily non-legal career trajectory.

Tefinn

New
Posts: 11
Joined: Fri May 13, 2016 10:52 pm

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Tefinn » Thu Dec 08, 2016 9:54 pm

Big4 M&A attorney here (JD/LLM).

I had the same dilemma - an offer which expired prior to the TIP program. I can tell you my experience, but keep in mind that experiences vary dramatically by firm, group, and even individual partners.

That said, here's an overview of my personal experience:

Compliance work - I never do any compliance work and nor do any of the other attorneys in my group. I have heard, though, that some of the other big 4 firms do staff attorneys on compliance work when structuring / diligence / modeling work is slow.

Hours - my work day typically begins at 9:15am and ends at around 7pm, though I frequently have to log back in from home for 30 min to an hour to respond to an email, revise a draft, etc. I rarely work on weekends - probably one weekend per month on average.

Typical work - the work we do is split between diligence (~50%), structuring (~30%), modeling (~10%) and opinion / memo writing on specific issues or transactions (~10%).

Pay - the pay does suck compared to big law; expect normal raises in the 10% range and promotional raises (e.g., to manager) in the 20% range. [As an aside, I have heard rumors that EY has upped its starting salary for LLMs to $140k in NYC for the 2017 starting class. I would recommend speaking to career services to see if there is any truth to this rumor. They actually have a good sense of this sort of thing.] Bonuses depend on your annual ratings and range from 2% to 9% with most people getting 4-5%.

Exit options - as others have noted, there are plenty of exit options to in-house positions such as VP of tax or tax counsel, usually after 4 or five years. International has better exit options than M&A as every multi-national has international tax needs; fewer are chronic aquirers. One advantage you'd have with Big4 experience is that you'd be familiar with modeling of attributes (e.g., calculating a 382 limitation, NUBIG/BIL), and generally understanding how various issues impact a corporation's tax provision and effective tax rate. On the other hand, you would lack drafting experience (e.g., tax reps and warranties in a purchase agreement). With respect to exiting to Biglaw, as others have noted, it is rare, but I have seen associates make the switch, usually after two or three years.

Hope this is helpful.

Anonymous User
Posts: 309456
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 08, 2016 11:50 pm

nealric wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:You are right we dont go to court but i would say the vast majority of our controversy gets settled at the administrative level anyway (IRS, CA FTB, various other department of revenues...). I think its pretty rare that a client would want to actually litigate because a lot of money has to be at stake and you have to pay the liability before you can even go to court. A lot of it is audit defense that requires a lot of research and writing. My big4 hires hires ex-biglaw including at the partner level to expand this practice group.

Hope everything works out for you, goodluck!


You do not have to pay the liability before going to Tax Court. You have to pay the liability before litigating in the Court of Federal Claims or District Court.

But the main thrust is correct, few clients do significant amounts of federal tax litigation. Things are usually settled by administrative appeals. If it's a big issue, however, a lot of the legal heavy lifting may be handled by a biglaw firm that works with the Big4 firm.


As for the OP:

Your main options are: climb the Big4 latter, go government, or go in-house. In-house tends to hire a lot from Big4, as most people in a corporate tax department will be CPAs with Big4 backgrounds. The top of that career trajectory is VP Tax, although it's not terribly unusual for a tax attorney to end up in the legal department if that's where they want to go.

Staying in big4 is a bit like staying in biglaw, but it's even tougher to make partner as you have more ladders to climb and the structure is an even broader pyramid. However, you can hang out as Senior Manager for quite some time- it's not quite the same as failing to make partner in biglaw.

I think the trickiest thing in Big4 is to make sure you get substantive legal work. Really is going to depend on your specific group and location. Not the end of the world if you end up doing substantial amounts of compliance, but I think it's tough if you don't also have an accounting background and are comfortable with a primarily non-legal career trajectory.


OP here. Thanks for this. Speaking to Big4 attorneys, the general impression that I got was that it was "easier" to make partner at Big 4 than Biglaw (please note the quote-on-quote). How long can you hang out as a Senior Manager then, would you say? I do not have an accounting background, and am somewhat comfortable with a primarily non-legal career trajectory (I didn't necessarily wanted to be a "lawyer" anyway), but I do think foreclosing potential biglaw opportunities for career enhancement is not a desirable outcome. Do people make the transition to biglaw then come back to big4 for partnership?

Anonymous User
Posts: 309456
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 09, 2016 12:00 am

Tefinn wrote:Big4 M&A attorney here (JD/LLM).

I had the same dilemma - an offer which expired prior to the TIP program. I can tell you my experience, but keep in mind that experiences vary dramatically by firm, group, and even individual partners.

That said, here's an overview of my personal experience:

Compliance work - I never do any compliance work and nor do any of the other attorneys in my group. I have heard, though, that some of the other big 4 firms do staff attorneys on compliance work when structuring / diligence / modeling work is slow.

Hours - my work day typically begins at 9:15am and ends at around 7pm, though I frequently have to log back in from home for 30 min to an hour to respond to an email, revise a draft, etc. I rarely work on weekends - probably one weekend per month on average.

Typical work - the work we do is split between diligence (~50%), structuring (~30%), modeling (~10%) and opinion / memo writing on specific issues or transactions (~10%).

Pay - the pay does suck compared to big law; expect normal raises in the 10% range and promotional raises (e.g., to manager) in the 20% range. [As an aside, I have heard rumors that EY has upped its starting salary for LLMs to $140k in NYC for the 2017 starting class. I would recommend speaking to career services to see if there is any truth to this rumor. They actually have a good sense of this sort of thing.] Bonuses depend on your annual ratings and range from 2% to 9% with most people getting 4-5%.

Exit options - as others have noted, there are plenty of exit options to in-house positions such as VP of tax or tax counsel, usually after 4 or five years. International has better exit options than M&A as every multi-national has international tax needs; fewer are chronic aquirers. One advantage you'd have with Big4 experience is that you'd be familiar with modeling of attributes (e.g., calculating a 382 limitation, NUBIG/BIL), and generally understanding how various issues impact a corporation's tax provision and effective tax rate. On the other hand, you would lack drafting experience (e.g., tax reps and warranties in a purchase agreement). With respect to exiting to Biglaw, as others have noted, it is rare, but I have seen associates make the switch, usually after two or three years.

Hope this is helpful.


OP Here. Wow! This is really helpful. Thank you so much. Your work sounds really interesting to me. To the extent that you can answer, I'd like to ask a few more Qs if you don't mind:

1. Why did you decide to stay? (how long have you been working?)
2. Which Big4 are you at?
3. Would you mind describing "diligence"? Although you are in M&A and the nature of the work might be a bit different.
4. Do tax llm grades matter for lateraling?
5. 9:15-7:00? Are you at NYC? That sounds like really good hours...
6. If you join in September, do you get 10% raise in July, then 20% when you become a Senior Associate the following year?

Also, I can confirm EY 140, only for M&A though. It's 140 & 10 bonus now, so total 150. I wonder if other firms will match...
Last edited by Anonymous User on Sat Dec 10, 2016 12:49 am, edited 5 times in total.

Anonymous User
Posts: 309456
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 09, 2016 12:03 am

.

Anonymous User
Posts: 309456
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 09, 2016 12:33 am

I was a CPA so take this with a grain of salt. However, it's a total flame to say that it's easier to make partner at the Big4. You can make nonequity partner/director fairly easily but the pay is pretty shitty (think 250k for a new director). This may seem decent, but considering you need to spend 12 years putting in long hours to get there, I would say it's not worth it.

If you want to be a real equity partner though, good luck. I was in a major market Big4 for 4 years and in that span we made 0 international partners. I left 2 years ago and last I heard we still hadn't made any new partners.

Tefinn

New
Posts: 11
Joined: Fri May 13, 2016 10:52 pm

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Tefinn » Fri Dec 09, 2016 2:31 am

1. Without getting into too much detail, I'm junior to mid-level. I'm staying put for now because I'm lucky enough to have manageable hours, work with people I generally get along with, and I'm not going hungry. I also get to work on technically-challenging projects, which is great for developing my technical skill set.

I would note that, aside from pay, the biggest "con" of working at a Big 4 firm is the sheer amount of administrative stuff you have to handle, especially at the junior level. You're running conflicts checks, preparing budgets, drafting engagement agreements, call agendas and request lists, and just generally doing a ton of internal coordination. These firms are like mini governments, with all the accompanying beuracracy, politics and red tape. There are no secretaries or paralegals, aside from the partners who have assistants to help with their personal billing, travel, etc.

2. No comment.

3. Diligence, at a very high level, involves reviewing a target company's tax profile for potential historical exposures. For example, if your client is considering acquiring an S-corp, you would obviously look to make sure the requirements for S-corp status are satisfied, otherwise there could be significant historical exposures that the client would inherit.

4. Yes, though the longer you stay, the less relevant your grades are.

5. To clarify, there are some late nights too. I would say probably 1-2 nights a week until 8-9ish and 3-4 times a month until 10-11ish. This could vary wildly by group, though.

6. Firms have their own fiscal years. Don't expect two raises in less than two full work years.

Feel free to PM me with any additional questions.

Anonymous User
Posts: 309456
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 09, 2016 11:02 am

Is it possible to lateral to big 4 after big law without an llm or accounting experience? How much experience in big law would you need?

Anonymous User
Posts: 309456
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 09, 2016 12:54 pm

I've seen biglaw lateral into big4 pretty early on. If you have a year or so in the tax field i think isn't too bad to lateral.

User avatar
nealric

Gold
Posts: 2745
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2009 9:53 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby nealric » Fri Dec 09, 2016 1:57 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
nealric wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:You are right we dont go to court but i would say the vast majority of our controversy gets settled at the administrative level anyway (IRS, CA FTB, various other department of revenues...). I think its pretty rare that a client would want to actually litigate because a lot of money has to be at stake and you have to pay the liability before you can even go to court. A lot of it is audit defense that requires a lot of research and writing. My big4 hires hires ex-biglaw including at the partner level to expand this practice group.

Hope everything works out for you, goodluck!


You do not have to pay the liability before going to Tax Court. You have to pay the liability before litigating in the Court of Federal Claims or District Court.

But the main thrust is correct, few clients do significant amounts of federal tax litigation. Things are usually settled by administrative appeals. If it's a big issue, however, a lot of the legal heavy lifting may be handled by a biglaw firm that works with the Big4 firm.


As for the OP:

Your main options are: climb the Big4 latter, go government, or go in-house. In-house tends to hire a lot from Big4, as most people in a corporate tax department will be CPAs with Big4 backgrounds. The top of that career trajectory is VP Tax, although it's not terribly unusual for a tax attorney to end up in the legal department if that's where they want to go.

Staying in big4 is a bit like staying in biglaw, but it's even tougher to make partner as you have more ladders to climb and the structure is an even broader pyramid. However, you can hang out as Senior Manager for quite some time- it's not quite the same as failing to make partner in biglaw.

I think the trickiest thing in Big4 is to make sure you get substantive legal work. Really is going to depend on your specific group and location. Not the end of the world if you end up doing substantial amounts of compliance, but I think it's tough if you don't also have an accounting background and are comfortable with a primarily non-legal career trajectory.


OP here. Thanks for this. Speaking to Big4 attorneys, the general impression that I got was that it was "easier" to make partner at Big 4 than Biglaw (please note the quote-on-quote). How long can you hang out as a Senior Manager then, would you say? I do not have an accounting background, and am somewhat comfortable with a primarily non-legal career trajectory (I didn't necessarily wanted to be a "lawyer" anyway), but I do think foreclosing potential biglaw opportunities for career enhancement is not a desirable outcome. Do people make the transition to biglaw then come back to big4 for partnership?


Just look at the numbers. A highly leveraged biglaw firm might have a 4:1 associate to partner ratio. For the big4 it's well in excess of 10:1 non-equity non-support staff employees to equity holders. There's no real limit to how long you can be senior manager (although many are made "director" after a time, which is more like "counsel" in a firm). I've been told by a Big4 partner who used to be a bliglaw partner that it's easier to make partner in biglaw and lateral to big4 partnership than to work your way up through the Big4 firm. Big4 partnership can actually be more lucrative than Biglaw, but obviously this is very situationally dependent.

Anonymous User
Posts: 309456
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 09, 2016 2:42 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I've seen biglaw lateral into big4 pretty early on. If you have a year or so in the tax field i think isn't too bad to lateral.


What about with a year of M&A experience?

Anonymous User
Posts: 309456
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 09, 2016 3:31 pm

nealric wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Big4 partnership can actually be more lucrative than Biglaw, but obviously this is very situationally dependent.


Just to add some context, If you are a total rainmaker you can make 1.5-2M in the big4. If you are a joe schmo tax partner you are probably looking at capping out in the 700-800k range. Junior partners start at around 350k before buy-in. I've heard all in compensation for first year partners can dip below 250k after your loan payments, etc.

Given the leverage, this is all academic though. My big4 has been making fewer and fewer partners and more and more managing directors. It's harder than ever to make partner. I don't really see this trend reversing anytime soon.

User avatar
nealric

Gold
Posts: 2745
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2009 9:53 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby nealric » Fri Dec 09, 2016 9:20 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
nealric wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Big4 partnership can actually be more lucrative than Biglaw, but obviously this is very situationally dependent.


Just to add some context, If you are a total rainmaker you can make 1.5-2M in the big4. If you are a joe schmo tax partner you are probably looking at capping out in the 700-800k range. Junior partners start at around 350k before buy-in. I've heard all in compensation for first year partners can dip below 250k after your loan payments, etc.

Given the leverage, this is all academic though. My big4 has been making fewer and fewer partners and more and more managing directors. It's harder than ever to make partner. I don't really see this trend reversing anytime soon.


Not really different from biglaw. However, I talked to a partner who lateraled from biglaw to the big4 as partner and said he got a substantial pay raise. It may be in part because there's more business development opportunities in the big4 for tax-specific projects.

Anonymous User
Posts: 309456
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Dec 10, 2016 12:02 am

nealric wrote:It may be in part because there's more business development opportunities in the big4 for tax-specific projects.


Bingo.

Biglaw junior partners make 250k?

User avatar
nealric

Gold
Posts: 2745
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2009 9:53 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby nealric » Sat Dec 10, 2016 11:15 am

Anonymous User wrote:
nealric wrote:It may be in part because there's more business development opportunities in the big4 for tax-specific projects.


Bingo.

Biglaw junior partners make 250k?


Depends what you define is biglaw I suppose. There are definitely am law 100 firms where this is not uncommon after you account for the buy-in payments.

Anonymous User
Posts: 309456
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 12, 2016 12:43 pm

interested in this path... do you need to take the bar or is that just optional?

Anonymous User
Posts: 309456
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 14, 2016 1:42 am

For most (all?) firms, you need to be admitted in at least one state to be promoted to Manager or higher.

rewritten

New
Posts: 9
Joined: Tue Mar 02, 2010 7:18 pm

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby rewritten » Sun Dec 18, 2016 4:15 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tefinn wrote:Big4 M&A attorney here (JD/LLM).

I had the same dilemma - an offer which expired prior to the TIP program. I can tell you my experience, but keep in mind that experiences vary dramatically by firm, group, and even individual partners.

That said, here's an overview of my personal experience:

Compliance work - I never do any compliance work and nor do any of the other attorneys in my group. I have heard, though, that some of the other big 4 firms do staff attorneys on compliance work when structuring / diligence / modeling work is slow.

Hours - my work day typically begins at 9:15am and ends at around 7pm, though I frequently have to log back in from home for 30 min to an hour to respond to an email, revise a draft, etc. I rarely work on weekends - probably one weekend per month on average.

Typical work - the work we do is split between diligence (~50%), structuring (~30%), modeling (~10%) and opinion / memo writing on specific issues or transactions (~10%).

Pay - the pay does suck compared to big law; expect normal raises in the 10% range and promotional raises (e.g., to manager) in the 20% range. [As an aside, I have heard rumors that EY has upped its starting salary for LLMs to $140k in NYC for the 2017 starting class. I would recommend speaking to career services to see if there is any truth to this rumor. They actually have a good sense of this sort of thing.] Bonuses depend on your annual ratings and range from 2% to 9% with most people getting 4-5%.

Exit options - as others have noted, there are plenty of exit options to in-house positions such as VP of tax or tax counsel, usually after 4 or five years. International has better exit options than M&A as every multi-national has international tax needs; fewer are chronic aquirers. One advantage you'd have with Big4 experience is that you'd be familiar with modeling of attributes (e.g., calculating a 382 limitation, NUBIG/BIL), and generally understanding how various issues impact a corporation's tax provision and effective tax rate. On the other hand, you would lack drafting experience (e.g., tax reps and warranties in a purchase agreement). With respect to exiting to Biglaw, as others have noted, it is rare, but I have seen associates make the switch, usually after two or three years.

Hope this is helpful.


OP Here. Wow! This is really helpful. Thank you so much. Your work sounds really interesting to me. To the extent that you can answer, I'd like to ask a few more Qs if you don't mind:

1. Why did you decide to stay? (how long have you been working?)
2. Which Big4 are you at?
3. Would you mind describing "diligence"? Although you are in M&A and the nature of the work might be a bit different.
4. Do tax llm grades matter for lateraling?
5. 9:15-7:00? Are you at NYC? That sounds like really good hours...
6. If you join in September, do you get 10% raise in July, then 20% when you become a Senior Associate the following year?

Also, I can confirm EY 140, only for M&A though. It's 140 & 10 bonus now, so total 150. I wonder if other firms will match...


OP, can you PM me? Big 4 M&A here happy to answer your questions re: diligence and anything else. I also have a question of my own. Thanks!

Anonymous User
Posts: 309456
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 19, 2016 3:21 pm

Tefinn wrote:1. Without getting into too much detail, I'm junior to mid-level. I'm staying put for now because I'm lucky enough to have manageable hours, work with people I generally get along with, and I'm not going hungry. I also get to work on technically-challenging projects, which is great for developing my technical skill set.

I would note that, aside from pay, the biggest "con" of working at a Big 4 firm is the sheer amount of administrative stuff you have to handle, especially at the junior level. You're running conflicts checks, preparing budgets, drafting engagement agreements, call agendas and request lists, and just generally doing a ton of internal coordination. These firms are like mini governments, with all the accompanying beuracracy, politics and red tape. There are no secretaries or paralegals, aside from the partners who have assistants to help with their personal billing, travel, etc.

2. No comment.

3. Diligence, at a very high level, involves reviewing a target company's tax profile for potential historical exposures. For example, if your client is considering acquiring an S-corp, you would obviously look to make sure the requirements for S-corp status are satisfied, otherwise there could be significant historical exposures that the client would inherit.

4. Yes, though the longer you stay, the less relevant your grades are.

5. To clarify, there are some late nights too. I would say probably 1-2 nights a week until 8-9ish and 3-4 times a month until 10-11ish. This could vary wildly by group, though.

6. Firms have their own fiscal years. Don't expect two raises in less than two full work years.

Feel free to PM me with any additional questions.


Thanks for sharing. What would the percentage breakdown be for exit ops (in house, gov, etc.)? Let's say from international versus M&A?

As someone who has a biglaw trans background, #5 doesn't sound that bad at all.

Anonymous User
Posts: 309456
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 20, 2016 10:44 am

Thanks for sharing. What would the percentage breakdown be for exit ops (in house, gov, etc.)? Let's say from international versus M&A?

As someone who has a biglaw trans background, #5 doesn't sound that bad at all.[/quote]

Most people leave for another Big 4. Of those that leave the Big 4 firms entirely, most (>50%) go in-house. Maybe 5% go to big law and another 5% to mid or small law. A bunch of one-off opportunities comprise the remainder (PE (in a non tax role), family businesses, non-legal jobs, etc.). Exiting to government is very rare. I've only seen it happen twice, one of which was a partner that left for a senior agency position.

With respect to the hours I mentioned, I will reiterate that experiences vary dramatically. I managed to set up a workable engagement cycle, but many of my colleagues work consistent ~12 hour work days and also consistently work on weekends.

Tefinn

New
Posts: 11
Joined: Fri May 13, 2016 10:52 pm

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Tefinn » Tue Dec 20, 2016 10:48 am

^accidental anon.

Anonymous User
Posts: 309456
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 14, 2017 11:31 pm

Are the salary figures for an LLM? I've been at a big 4 in Chicago for 3 years without an LLM and only make 80k. Half ready to just leave tax/law and go be a consultant/business analyst somewhere, but maybe an LLM would open doors? Does a Northwestern LLM hold any value or would I have to go the traditional NYU/Georgetown route?

Anonymous User
Posts: 309456
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Big 4 Career Trajectory as a tax lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 15, 2017 12:01 am

Anonymous User wrote:Are the salary figures for an LLM? I've been at a big 4 in Chicago for 3 years without an LLM and only make 80k. Half ready to just leave tax/law and go be a consultant/business analyst somewhere, but maybe an LLM would open doors? Does a Northwestern LLM hold any value or would I have to go the traditional NYU/Georgetown route?


The figures are for LLM. If you went to a decent law school, worst case scenario with an LLM is probably international tax at a Big 4 making 115+k in NY.

If you want to be in Chicago, though, Northwestern isn't a bad option. It just depends if you're aiming for a big law firm or you're cool with just being at a Big 4 making a a little (or lot) more.

Big law hiring seems to be down this year (TIP was not the greatest), so, unless you're fine with going back to Big 4, I would not get the LLM



Return to “Legal Employment�

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.