3 years out of law school - switch to tax law?

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3 years out of law school - switch to tax law?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 17, 2020 5:11 pm

Is it still possible without getting an llm? I’m not interested in doing biglaw type deals and ultimately would like to be my own boss and maybe do small business tax / consulting (and some individual if necessary). Is anyone in that space here? I have no background except for having a CPA (maybe it will add credibility in attracting clients). I’m about 3 years out of law school. Did big law for 2.5 and am in-house now. My work experience (banking/cap markets) is not really helpful outside of the context of working at an investment bank or PE firm.

I know it won't be the financially smart decision but life is too short. I plan on leaving with a nice nest egg in maybe 1-2 years and am ok taking a giant pay cut to be my own boss in order to build something enjoyable over time.

How should I get started in developing skills in the next 2 years? I work only 45-50 hours a week so I have time on my hand outside of work to work on things.


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Re: 3 years out of law school - switch to tax law?

Post by hulunetflix » Wed Jun 17, 2020 6:06 pm

I think you probably can get your desired experience from mid-sized/small firms or some in-house legal departments. Challenge is that those places rarely take entry-level tax attorneys. They at least would want 1-2 years of experience because they don't want to teach the 101s of tax law. You can try to make your point that you know the 101s because you already are a CPA (and have experience in tax, if that's true).

Your CPA will be very helpful to you because smaller firms tend to want it.

I would also consider volunteer writing bar reports for the tax section of a bar association (for example, NYSBA, NYCBA). Tax professionals care about these. There's currently also pro bono need for nonprofits tax issues. These won't be relevant to your future practice, but it helps you open the door & shows interest.

If you don't want to do an LLM, some law schools offer online certificates - I honestly don't know if an LLM or even a certificate is really worth the money. For smaller firms, they care less about the paper credentials, but they need someone who doesn't need much training/overweight.

Hope it helps!

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Re: 3 years out of law school - switch to tax law?

Post by nealric » Thu Jun 18, 2020 3:14 pm

The issue is that biglaw type deals are the only ones were significant tax law issues come up on a routine basis. Small businesses rarely have tax needs beyond what their regular compliance folks offer.

You can certainly make a viable business doing work for small businesses and individuals, but you'd need to be prepared to do mostly return prep and audit representation. It wouldn't really be "tax law", but your JD could help you sell yourself over the garden variety CPA solo shop. I'd strongly recommend finding a smaller CPA firm to work for first before doing that, especially given that you don't have a strong tax background.

An LLM is mostly going to be geared towards large business issues, so won't really help someone looking to hang a shingle doing tax work. You won't learn much at all about return prep in an LLM. There are a small number of tiny tax boutiques and solos who do sophisticated large business work, but those folks tend to have a lot of Biglaw/Big4 tax experience and have already made a name for themselves/developed connections in the tax space.


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Re: 3 years out of law school - switch to tax law?

Post by dabigchina » Thu Jun 18, 2020 8:01 pm

I have no personal experience with this, but if you are looking at hanging your own shingle, wouldn't transitioning to T&E be the move? Enough lawyerly work, but plenty of small clients. Dual CPA/lawyer would prob look desirable to laymen who want this kind of work done.

See if you can get a job working with a T&E lawyer and then open up your own shingle? That being said, you'll still be a lawyer, which I understand the aversion to.

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