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I am a 2L, T1, top 15% who struck out at OCI. After looking at my state's requirements for sitting for a CPA exam I discovered that I can qualify by taking courses over this summer and the summer after I graduate. I would also have to take accounting courses during my third year, but I can do that because I have taken the max credit hours for my 2L year. Needless to say, it would be difficult. My question: is this worth doing? How attractive is this for an employer? I already have a Master's degree in the humanities and it is nearly worthless as far as law firm hiring goes so I wouldn't want to add a CPA if it isn't much help.
What do you plan on doing with your CPA? For starters, the CPA Exam is very hard to pass even for accounting majors (I am a CPA myself so I know this.) Only 10% of the people who take it pass all 4 parts the first time. And once you pass, you would be basically starting from the bottom of the accounting totem pole as you don't appear to have any accounting experience at all. Do you even like accounting? Getting a CPA really pidgeon-holes you into a specific career and if you don't really want to do it, you won't like having so few career options. I know this from experience, which is why I am going to law school!
I am interested in tax law, so I figure being a CPA would be a help. I wouldn't be blindly adding something to polish my resume. I don't want to just be a CPA, I am wondering whether the extra effort would be rewarded (especially in this job market). I would imagine it would be a benefit when doing many kinds of transactional work, I guess I'm really wondering whether the benefit would be limited to tax law or whether it might give me a leg up in a general civil/transactional practice as well.
Just having the CPA probably isn't going to result in any sort of benefit. A CPA who decides to go to law school later on and become a tax lawyer or something like that is a different story. Instead of trying to tack on stuff that isn't going to help you, spend your time outside of class networking and try to get a job. Get to know some attorneys, do a part-time internship or externship during the school year and/or get a job working as a part-time paid law clerk at a smaller firm.
If you are interested in tax law, it definitely helps. I know someone doing your exact plan, and her research beyond random TLS members made her believe it was a worthwhile venture. Ask some people at firms or other employers you are interested in working for, and they will give you a definitive answer.
Every M&A/PE lawyer I've ever spoken to has stressed the value of accounting knowledge. The CPA itself won't mean much (you probably won't be able to get the license anyway), but the accounting background will (especially for someone with a liberal arts background).
If you are absolutely sure you want to be a tax lawyer, it might help a little. I would talk to tax lawyers first. You're probably better off just focusing on earning good grades in your tax courses and busting your tail getting to know tax lawyers in your city/region so you can have a job lined up working in tax law.
Again, even if you do the CPA there is no way you will be compared to a person who had the CPA before law school and got some experience working in the field. It sounds like your plan would be a huge time drain and probably wouldn't leave much time for networking and the job search. Plus, you need to think about how it will affect your academic performance in law school, particularly if you decide to load up on difficult tax courses from now until graduation.
Anonymous User wrote:So even with an interest in tax law, would you still say becoming a CPA is not worth the effort? It seems like it would have to help at least a little...
The usefulness of a JD/CPA for a tax lawyer will depend on what area of tax you end up going into. For example, It could be very valuable for a solo practice type so as to set up a "one stop shop". By contrast, it could be far less useful for someone who specializes in exempt orgs. at a large law firm.
For the most part, accounting issues get handled by accountants, legal issues get handled by lawyers. I can't tell you how many times I have had professors tell me not to worry about something because "the accountants take care of that type of thing."
Obviously JD-CPAs happen, but it's a little like getting your MD then going back to get your RN. My sense is that generally JD-CPAs were once only CPAs who for one reason or another decided to move on or expand.
The knowledge is useful, but don't necessarily expect it to translate into hiring success without the practical experience. It also may not be directly relevant to the job you end up working. Also, as stated previously, you'd need to investigate the licensing requirements if you want to put it on your business cards or list it on your resume as a certification instead of just education.
A tax LLM is more geared for this situation and gives more of the knowledge that a tax lawyer will need. Best if obtained from NYU, otherwise GULC or UF. Don't expect it to radically alter job prospects.
CPA exams aren't really that hard and to pass you only need to score > 75%. However in CA to be a CPA you need accounting work experience (I think it's the same in most other states as well). The general CPA license that I am getting myself needs one year of acctg WE which I do have and passing the exams. I decided to get the license just because I didn't need to put too much effort into it but if you don't have the WE and don't wanna bother with 4 exams (albeit relatively easy ones) I don't think it'd be worth it.
It really depends on what you want to do, but a CPA with a JD can be a great credential to have. However, if you have no actual accounting experience the CPA loses a lot of its appeal. I think it's a fine goal to strive for a CPA license, but don't sacrifice too much for it. The CPA exam can be a real time sink, and I've heard many JD/CPAs say that the CPA exam was much harder than the bar. Law firms won't place much emphasis on the CPA license, especially if you have absolutely no experience.
If you want to work in-house in the future then the CPA would be highly advantageous. Corporations look very highly on CPAs, although again a lot of the CPAs appeal is lost if you have no accounting experience. That said, a CPA and no accounting experience is better than no CPA license and no accounting experience.
Another issue to consider is the experience requirement. Almost every state requires you to have some accounting experience to get a license from that state.
I'm an accounting undergrad (about to graduate) and plan on working a few years in a Big 4 firm for some experience (and a CPA license) before heading to law school to specialize in tax law.
I'd suggest also reading the taxtalent.com career forums if you're interested in tax law.