Questions about Tax Law

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Momentum
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Questions about Tax Law

Postby Momentum » Tue Jan 18, 2011 8:23 pm

I apologize in advance for the naivety of this series of questions.

Would somebody be so kind as to explain what the practice of Tax Law might entail? I understand from my perusing that it is dreadfully boring and that in law school the textbooks are quite expensive. Is it similar to Intellectual Property Law in that a degree in, say, accounting is necessary to pursue it? Is the legal market as saturated with glasses-wearing, pocked-protected Tax Lawyers as it is with the other kinds? Does teh BIGLaw want them any harder and more intimately than other, cooler law school graduates? Is there anything fundamentally different about the work of a Tax Lawyer when compared to the work of the other masses of Doctors of Jurisprudence? Is there anything else a lurker on this forum might want to know that didn't make its way into my train of thought?

Educate me.

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nealric
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Re: Questions about Tax Law

Postby nealric » Tue Jan 18, 2011 8:37 pm

I apologize in advance for the naivety of this series of questions.

Would somebody be so kind as to explain what the practice of Tax Law might entail? I understand from my perusing that it is dreadfully boring and that in law school the textbooks are quite expensive. Is it similar to Intellectual Property Law in that a degree in, say, accounting is necessary to pursue it? Is the legal market as saturated with glasses-wearing, pocked-protected Tax Lawyers as it is with the other kinds? Does teh BIGLaw want them any harder and more intimately than other, cooler law school graduates? Is there anything fundamentally different about the work of a Tax Lawyer when compared to the work of the other masses of Doctors of Jurisprudence? Is there anything else a lurker on this forum might want to know that didn't make its way into my train of thought?

Educate me.


I am a brand new first year tax associate at a biglaw firm.

Tax law is quite varied. It could entail tax litigation in Federal court, administrative controversy, international planing, advising on M&A deals, working on the tax implications of employee benefits, doing estate planning, working on state/local issues, etc. My day-to-day practice will involve things like reviewing deal documents for potential tax issues, checking for issues on certain IRS forms (note that I don't do returns), and doing research for deal structuring. There is nothing fundamentally different about any of this, but it does require a certain body of expertise. While you don't need to have an accounting background (I was a philosophy major in undergrad), you do need to know your way around the tax code. Some aspects of tax law do involve accounting or accounting concepts (partnership tax in particular), but you can do most tax work without knowing anything but the very most basic accounting principles.

Tax lawyers are fairly nerdy on average, but I wouldn't put them up there with pocket-protector wearing types. I've met tax lawyers who were 300lb bench-pressing jocks.

Firms need skilled tax associates, but that doesn't mean they are handing out offers like candy. For one, most firms don't have huge tax departments. A firm with 100 corporate lawyers might only have five or six tax people. Moreover, tax associates only become really useful once they really know their stuff. You can't just rack up billables with doc review in tax.

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Cade McNown
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Re: Questions about Tax Law

Postby Cade McNown » Tue Jan 18, 2011 8:45 pm

I'm interested in this too. Can you comment anymore on the relation of tax law to estate planning. I really want to get into trusts and estates but am hesitant because I don't know if tax law is really for me.

Apologies to OP for jumping in on your topic.

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stintez
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Re: Questions about Tax Law

Postby stintez » Tue Jan 18, 2011 8:47 pm

Cade McNown wrote:I'm interested in this too. Can you comment anymore on the relation of tax law to estate planning. I really want to get into trusts and estates but am hesitant because I don't know if tax law is really for me.

Apologies to OP for jumping in on your topic.

+1

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nealric
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Re: Questions about Tax Law

Postby nealric » Tue Jan 18, 2011 8:51 pm

I'm interested in this too. Can you comment anymore on the relation of tax law to estate planning. I really want to get into trusts and estates but am hesitant because I don't know if tax law is really for me.


That relationship may vary quite a bit depending on what happens to estate and gift taxes over the next few years. But generally, it's considered a pretty separate niche in tax. Most corporate tax types know very little about estate taxes.

In addition to tax, estate planning involves things like writing wills and establishing trusts. One advantage to estate planning is that it's not a biglaw-only type practice. Plenty of people have successful solo estate planning practices. In fact, trusts and estates is pretty much a dying practice area in biglaw because pretty much everyone save the wealthiest of the wealthy have been priced out by biglaw billing rates.

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Momentum
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Re: Questions about Tax Law

Postby Momentum » Tue Jan 18, 2011 9:01 pm

Apologies to OP for jumping in on your topic.
No worries, I think this thread has been a long time coming. I'd like to have as much information as possible floating around the site for others wondering the same things we are to delve through.

nealric, thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us. Did you expressly specialize in Tax Law during your stay at Georgetown, or is it more of a post-hire training sort of thing? Also, do you consider an LL. M. necessary to the progression of your career as so many suggest on this forum?

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nealric
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Re: Questions about Tax Law

Postby nealric » Tue Jan 18, 2011 9:05 pm

Did you expressly specialize in Tax Law during your stay at Georgetown, or is it more of a post-hire training sort of thing? Also, do you consider an LL. M. necessary to the progression of your career as so many suggest on this forum?


I did a joint JD/LLM at Georgetown. So I did specialize in tax as much as possible. However, others at my firm have come in with just a handfull tax classes under their belt. My firm considers the LLM to be quasi-mandatory in the long-run. Associates without an LLM are pretty much expected to do them part time. Some firms don't care as much about the LLM as mine does.

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Momentum
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Re: Questions about Tax Law

Postby Momentum » Tue Jan 18, 2011 9:16 pm

I did a joint JD/LLM at Georgetown. So I did specialize in tax as much as possible. However, others at my firm have come in with just a handfull tax classes under their belt. My firm considers the LLM to be quasi-mandatory in the long-run. Associates without an LLM are pretty much expected to do them part time. Some firms don't care as much about the LLM as mine does.
In keeping with the cynical nature of TLS, I must ask: do you regret your decision to put all your eggs in the Tax Law basket? If not, tell us what makes you enjoy what you do so that we may decide if the work might fulfill us as well.

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nealric
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Re: Questions about Tax Law

Postby nealric » Tue Jan 18, 2011 10:17 pm

In keeping with the cynical nature of TLS, I must ask: do you regret your decision to put all your eggs in the Tax Law basket? If not, tell us what makes you enjoy what you do so that we may decide if the work might fulfill us as well.


So far, no. There are a few things I really like about tax work:

It's very problem-solving oriented.
It's kind of fun understanding something that is gibberish to other people.
There is a lot less grunt work than in corporate or litigation.
Leverage in most tax departments is very low (see above). This means more substantive work for associates and more partner interaction.
Hours are more predictable (and usually less) than corporate or litigation.

R1chardParker
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Re: Questions about Tax Law

Postby R1chardParker » Tue Jan 18, 2011 10:24 pm

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Last edited by R1chardParker on Mon Mar 31, 2014 2:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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nealric
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Re: Questions about Tax Law

Postby nealric » Tue Jan 18, 2011 10:26 pm

Does having a CPA going into law school w/interest in tax law help in the job search enough to contemplate going to a lower ranked school (still T20) on 50%+ scholarship as opposed to a T10 at sticker?


No- not for biglaw at least. Go to the T10. With a full ride, it might be worth it to go for the T20.

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Re: Questions about Tax Law

Postby ScrabbleChamp » Thu Feb 03, 2011 3:41 pm

nealric wrote:
Did you expressly specialize in Tax Law during your stay at Georgetown, or is it more of a post-hire training sort of thing? Also, do you consider an LL. M. necessary to the progression of your career as so many suggest on this forum?


I did a joint JD/LLM at Georgetown. So I did specialize in tax as much as possible. However, others at my firm have come in with just a handfull tax classes under their belt. My firm considers the LLM to be quasi-mandatory in the long-run. Associates without an LLM are pretty much expected to do them part time. Some firms don't care as much about the LLM as mine does.


How were the courses in the LLM? Were they just extensions of what you learned while obtaining your JD, or were they new concepts? Also, aside from your firm more or less requiring the LLM, do you feel it is greatly advantageous to have an LLM?

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nealric
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Re: Questions about Tax Law

Postby nealric » Thu Feb 03, 2011 9:21 pm

How were the courses in the LLM? Were they just extensions of what you learned while obtaining your JD, or were they new concepts? Also, aside from your firm more or less requiring the LLM, do you feel it is greatly advantageous to have an LLM?


I can't really separate JD classes from LLM classes because all my tax classes after Tax I were cross listed between the JD and LLM program. It was certainly helpful from a conceptual standpoint. If nothing else, it has made me a better tax lawyer.

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Re: Questions about Tax Law

Postby Malcolm8X » Thu Feb 03, 2011 9:28 pm

nealric wrote:
How were the courses in the LLM? Were they just extensions of what you learned while obtaining your JD, or were they new concepts? Also, aside from your firm more or less requiring the LLM, do you feel it is greatly advantageous to have an LLM?


I can't really separate JD classes from LLM classes because all my tax classes after Tax I were cross listed between the JD and LLM program. It was certainly helpful from a conceptual standpoint. If nothing else, it has made me a better tax lawyer.


Thanks for helping me in the PM. Do most of your classmates have a firm job or B4 job lined up already?

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Re: Questions about Tax Law

Postby Marionberry » Thu Feb 03, 2011 9:29 pm

nealric, did you plan to do the JD/LLM when you started law school? If not, at what point were you able to begin pursuing that?

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nealric
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Re: Questions about Tax Law

Postby nealric » Thu Feb 03, 2011 9:45 pm

Thanks for helping me in the PM. Do most of your classmates have a firm job or B4 job lined up already?


I'm not in school any more, so I don't have any classmates. But when I was in school, I say it was a 50/50 split by spring of the LLM program. Most people eventually found something. Generally, firms haven't been doing much LLM OCI. Most people who got biglaw got it through 2L OCI.

nealric, did you plan to do the JD/LLM when you started law school? If not, at what point were you able to begin pursuing that?


I opted into it Fall of my 3L year. I first became interested in tax in the middle of my 1L year. An experienced tax attorney told me that philosophy majors liked doing tax. I was intrigued by the suggested and went from there.

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Marionberry
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Re: Questions about Tax Law

Postby Marionberry » Thu Feb 03, 2011 9:49 pm

nealric wrote:
Thanks for helping me in the PM. Do most of your classmates have a firm job or B4 job lined up already?


I'm not in school any more, so I don't have any classmates. But when I was in school, I say it was a 50/50 split by spring of the LLM program. Most people eventually found something. Generally, firms haven't been doing much LLM OCI. Most people who got biglaw got it through 2L OCI.

nealric, did you plan to do the JD/LLM when you started law school? If not, at what point were you able to begin pursuing that?


I opted into it Fall of my 3L year. I first became interested in tax in the middle of my 1L year. An experienced tax attorney told me that philosophy majors liked doing tax. I was intrigued by the suggested and went from there.


So how much longer did it take to get both? Did you just do it by taking lots of classes that are crosslisted?

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nealric
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Re: Questions about Tax Law

Postby nealric » Thu Feb 03, 2011 10:31 pm

So how much longer did it take to get both? Did you just do it by taking lots of classes that are crosslisted?


Just an extra semester. I was deferred anyways.

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Re: Questions about Tax Law

Postby prezidentv8 » Thu Feb 03, 2011 10:33 pm

Interested in this. Sup.




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