Are tax/benefits specialty firms looked down upon?

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Are tax/benefits specialty firms looked down upon?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Oct 20, 2018 8:48 pm

At the point in my career where I want to specialize more in a certain field (tax-related) and I was wondering how tax/benefits firms are generally perceived. Specifically, what do people think about Caplin Drysdale, Groom, Miller & Chevalier, Roberts & Holland, Ivins?

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Re: Are tax/benefits specialty firms looked down upon?

Postby QContinuum » Sun Oct 21, 2018 12:45 pm

I'm a bit confused by your question. If you want to specialize in tax/benefits, why do you care what the proverbial lawyer on the street thinks? The vast majority of lawyers aren't at all familiar with patent boutiques, and are unlikely to view patent boutiques they've never heard of as particularly prestigious. But for someone wanting to specialize in patent prosecution, it doesn't mean it'd be a bad idea to work at one of those boutiques. Ditto for plaintiffs' firms or family law practices.

Prestige only goes so far, anyway. Even the most prestigious firms on TLS - like Cravath, or Wachtell, or Munger, or Irell, or Williams & Connolly - even these firms are generally only prestigious within the legal community (and the small pool of corporate executives that use their legal services). The average non-lawyer on the street has never heard of 'em.

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Re: Are tax/benefits specialty firms looked down upon?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Oct 21, 2018 2:34 pm

I'm a benefits associate, and not sure what you mean by "looked down on" - do you mean like, do other benefits lawyers dislike Groom? (kind of) Do you mean that if you started at Groom a benefits group at a big law firm wouldn't consider you as a lateral? (No) Do you mean by like, the larger legal community? (I mean, who cares what a random bankruptcy attorney thinks about working for a boutique benefits shop)

If you want to do benefits and you get a job in benefits at a boutique, then go for it.

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Re: Are tax/benefits specialty firms looked down upon?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Oct 21, 2018 6:29 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a benefits associate, and not sure what you mean by "looked down on" - do you mean like, do other benefits lawyers dislike Groom? (kind of) Do you mean that if you started at Groom a benefits group at a big law firm wouldn't consider you as a lateral? (No) Do you mean by like, the larger legal community? (I mean, who cares what a random bankruptcy attorney thinks about working for a boutique benefits shop)

If you want to do benefits and you get a job in benefits at a boutique, then go for it.


Why do other benefits lawyers not like Groom? Do tax lawyers feel the same Caplin Drysdale?

I’m just tired of my biglaw firm (it’s also chambers ranked in benefits/tax). I have heard that quality of life is better at these boutiques, but I’m not sure I want to stay there forever. That’s why I posed the question.

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Re: Are tax/benefits specialty firms looked down upon?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Oct 21, 2018 8:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm a benefits associate, and not sure what you mean by "looked down on" - do you mean like, do other benefits lawyers dislike Groom? (kind of) Do you mean that if you started at Groom a benefits group at a big law firm wouldn't consider you as a lateral? (No) Do you mean by like, the larger legal community? (I mean, who cares what a random bankruptcy attorney thinks about working for a boutique benefits shop)

If you want to do benefits and you get a job in benefits at a boutique, then go for it.


Why do other benefits lawyers not like Groom? Do tax lawyers feel the same Caplin Drysdale?

I’m just tired of my biglaw firm (it’s also chambers ranked in benefits/tax). I have heard that quality of life is better at these boutiques, but I’m not sure I want to stay there forever. That’s why I posed the question.


I mean, it's mostly a joke, but biglaw firms love to hate on Groom :) I don't think anyone thinks they're not good lawyers, just really specialized, and obviously people who want to know literally every detail about cafeteria plans and be the foremost expert on Section 125 are not the same people who enjoy the more broad based practice in biglaw. I don't know anything about Caplin Drysdale so I can't speak to that (we don't joke about them :) :) ) I don't know if quality of life is actually better at Groom than it is other places - based on third hand information I don't think it is, but then again my biglaw benefits group is pretty chill. If you're looking at going elsewhere, make sure you ask the right questions so you don't end up in a place making less money than before and also hating your life just as much.

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Re: Are tax/benefits specialty firms looked down upon?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Oct 21, 2018 9:05 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm a benefits associate, and not sure what you mean by "looked down on" - do you mean like, do other benefits lawyers dislike Groom? (kind of) Do you mean that if you started at Groom a benefits group at a big law firm wouldn't consider you as a lateral? (No) Do you mean by like, the larger legal community? (I mean, who cares what a random bankruptcy attorney thinks about working for a boutique benefits shop)

If you want to do benefits and you get a job in benefits at a boutique, then go for it.


Why do other benefits lawyers not like Groom? Do tax lawyers feel the same Caplin Drysdale?

I’m just tired of my biglaw firm (it’s also chambers ranked in benefits/tax). I have heard that quality of life is better at these boutiques, but I’m not sure I want to stay there forever. That’s why I posed the question.


I mean, it's mostly a joke, but biglaw firms love to hate on Groom :) I don't think anyone thinks they're not good lawyers, just really specialized, and obviously people who want to know literally every detail about cafeteria plans and be the foremost expert on Section 125 are not the same people who enjoy the more broad based practice in biglaw. I don't know anything about Caplin Drysdale so I can't speak to that (we don't joke about them :) :) ) I don't know if quality of life is actually better at Groom than it is other places - based on third hand information I don't think it is, but then again my biglaw benefits group is pretty chill. If you're looking at going elsewhere, make sure you ask the right questions so you don't end up in a place making less money than before and also hating your life just as much.


Thanks for the info. I think I know which group you’re in and those hours seem to be generally better than biglaw (my friend is in that group).

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Re: Are tax/benefits specialty firms looked down upon?

Postby ronaldo09 » Sun Oct 21, 2018 11:22 pm

If you work and specialize in tax law, Caplin Drysdale and Miller Chevalier have a great reputation in the field and everyone in tax know that they are top notch. If you were asking about prestige among non-tax attorneys, then yes, almost no one knows about these firms. But they are great places to be if you work in tax. The tax groups in big firms also know about them so are good to lateral as well within tax groups.

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Re: Are tax/benefits specialty firms looked down upon?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Oct 22, 2018 8:29 am

ronaldo09 wrote:If you work and specialize in tax law, Caplin Drysdale and Miller Chevalier have a great reputation in the field and everyone in tax know that they are top notch. If you were asking about prestige among non-tax attorneys, then yes, almost no one knows about these firms. But they are great places to be if you work in tax. The tax groups in big firms also know about them so are good to lateral as well within tax groups.


The same can probably be said about Groom for benefits. I know a couple people there. It’s a top-notch firm that is extremely well-known within the benefits world. They are hyper technical though, which makes them easy to make fun of, I guess.

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Re: Are tax/benefits specialty firms looked down upon?

Postby V5lawbrah » Mon Oct 22, 2018 9:05 am

Biglaw lateral to one of the above mentioned firms — better partnership prospects, better hours, more substantive work, and same pay (albeit less of a bonus).

I hadn’t heard of half of these firms before I decided to specialize fwiw, but I’m glad I made the jump.

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Re: Are tax/benefits specialty firms looked down upon?

Postby nealric » Mon Oct 22, 2018 2:48 pm

As an in-house tax attorney, I wouldn't say tax specialty firms are looked down on. Rather, I think they tend to focus on rather niche issues within the tax world. Most biglaw tax departments get a large portion of the work from piggybacking on the corporate groups. Since the boutiques can't do that, they have to find places where they have unique expertise. My impression is that they are also a bit more controversy heavy than most biglaw tax groups.

For an associate, they tend to be a bit below market on the comp side (at least that was the case when I was applying to firms), but partnership prospects and training are likely better in exchange.

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Re: Are tax/benefits specialty firms looked down upon?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Oct 22, 2018 4:44 pm

I was in international tax at a big firm in DC and Ivins was very well regarded. Honestly, working for a boutique tax firm seemed better lifestyle wise than a big firm.

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Re: Are tax/benefits specialty firms looked down upon?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Oct 22, 2018 6:05 pm

Agree with a lot of the above.

I’ve interviewed with two of the firms above and both had mentioned that they had really filled days, but rarely had to work late (past 8 pm) or on weekends. So I think that they’re “busier” but they have more manageable schedules.

I know many of our clients use some of the above for more novel tax issues because an opinion letter from one of the above is usually preferred (many attorneys worked at the federal government level - mostly treasury department).

I don’t think they do deal work, which is why they get so much work. My firm focuses mainly on mergers and large transactions. I don’t think many large firms focus on more compliance issues, so those firms specialize in that.

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Re: Are tax/benefits specialty firms looked down upon?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Oct 23, 2018 4:30 pm

I'm good friends with a fairly senior in-house tax counsel at a large energy company in Houston. They use BB/V&E/Kirkland for their deals (and tax lawyers that come with the deal team) but they have a separate budget for other tax issues, for which they almost exclusively use Miller Chevalier. I'm not a tax lawyer myself but based on how my friends talks about them, they seem highly regarded in that space.

From my friend's perspective, the more senior lawyers like engaging Miller Chevalier because they get more time billed by partners as compared to associates relative to the more highly leveraged general corporate firms in town where associate time makes up most of the bill.



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