Former Tax Court clerk taking questions Forum

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Former Tax Court clerk taking questions

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 22, 2022 8:48 am

I'm not sure how much interest there will be in this topic, but Article I clerkships don't seem to get discussed much. They may not have the same prestige as other federal clerkships, but I found mine to be a great springboard into my career in tax. The most common exits I've observed among fellow clerks are to big law tax and EBEC practices, tax and EBEC boutiques, and the IRS Office of Chief Counsel (mostly the national office, but some to field offices).

I never heard much about Art I clerkships while I was a student, so I wanted to share what insight I can into these often overlooked opportunities (to the extent there's interest, anyway). AMA.

mc265

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Re: Former Tax Court clerk taking questions

Post by mc265 » Wed Jun 22, 2022 11:03 am

What was your background before clerking? Currently first-year tax counsel for a state comptroller and looking to make a change. Thanks for the insight in advance.

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Re: Former Tax Court clerk taking questions

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 22, 2022 12:32 pm

OP here.

I clerked straight out of my tax LLM program, which I went into right after finishing my JD. There are a significant number of Tax Court judges who will only consider candidates with a tax LLM, but there are also plenty who will consider JD-only candidates if they've taken and graded well in multiple tax classes. I recall interviewing a few candidates who had JDs and 1-2 years of work experience in tax, including one who was working for a state doing SALT work. State tax is obviously a different ballgame than federal, but I've definitely seen viable candidates with backgrounds similar to yours.

TC judges are subject matter experts, so a strong tax background matters a lot. A candidate from a reputable but unprestigious law school with strong grades in 5 tax classes will get more interviews than one from HYS who's only taken basic income. It also helps immensely if you can apply with a tax writing sample. I'd say at least 5 pages but not more than 10 is a good length, and the more technical, the better.

This is going beyond what you asked, but applications typically open in July-August the year before the clerkship would start (i.e., you would apply this summer for a term starting summer 2023). I mention it because (1) it's different from the hiring timeline of most other federal clerkships, and (2) the time to submit apps for next year is rapidly approaching.

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Re: Former Tax Court clerk taking questions

Post by melpomene » Wed Jun 22, 2022 3:27 pm

Thanks for doing this! I’m a recent grad, about to sit for the bar and then join a NY biglaw firm’s tax practice. I think we do mostly transactional work, with some independent tax advice. Do you think it’s worth it to do a Tax Court clerkship if I am already doing tax at a law firm? If so, what year do you think would be best? Would it make a good transition into government (dream job is probably Office of Tax Policy at Treasury).

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Re: Former Tax Court clerk taking questions

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 22, 2022 5:35 pm

melpomene wrote:
Wed Jun 22, 2022 3:27 pm
Thanks for doing this! I’m a recent grad, about to sit for the bar and then join a NY biglaw firm’s tax practice. I think we do mostly transactional work, with some independent tax advice. Do you think it’s worth it to do a Tax Court clerkship if I am already doing tax at a law firm? If so, what year do you think would be best? Would it make a good transition into government (dream job is probably Office of Tax Policy at Treasury).
Not OP, but another former Tax Court clerk here.

I know several clerks who i) have jobs at Big Law firms doing tax lined up for after the clerkship, and ii) will be doing or plan to be doing transactional work rather than tax controversy. I bring this up to say yes a Tax Court clerkship is worth it. Clerking in general is an experience that I recommend every seek out. The opportunity to work with a judge and draft opinions for 1-2 years is something you won't find in any other part of our profession. A Tax Court clerkship in particular will expose you to various areas of tax that will help you grow as a tax lawyer and may come up later down the road in your career. And yes, it can help with opening doors later to government jobs like Treasury.

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Re: Former Tax Court clerk taking questions

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 22, 2022 6:35 pm

melpomene wrote:
Wed Jun 22, 2022 3:27 pm
Thanks for doing this! I’m a recent grad, about to sit for the bar and then join a NY biglaw firm’s tax practice. I think we do mostly transactional work, with some independent tax advice. Do you think it’s worth it to do a Tax Court clerkship if I am already doing tax at a law firm? If so, what year do you think would be best? Would it make a good transition into government (dream job is probably Office of Tax Policy at Treasury).
OP again.

I would recommend clerking to almost anyone, tbh. It's a great experience, and you're likely to be exposed to a much broader range of tax topics/issues at the court than you would just working in biglaw. Another perk of clerking is that you really have the time to dig to the bottom of every rabbit hole. So I think it absolutely offers some training/perspective that you wouldn't get from biglaw alone. It's not uncommon for lawyers to clerk after 1-2 years practicing, but I suspect waiting longer than that may make landing a clerkship more difficult.

I don't personally know anyone doing that sort of tax policy work, but I do know of former TC clerks working places like the House Ways and Means Committee. Clerk network aside, just being in DC for a few years should be a plus for making government connections.

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