Thinking about studying tax law? You should. Here’s why
Imagine: being a lawyer with less stress, more flexibility, and lots of other benefits. This could be your life if you study tax law.
In fact, tax lawyers report being the most satisfied with their jobs compared to all other practice areas. Keep reading to find out why.
Below you’ll get a preview of the work you might do as a tax lawyer and a look at some of the top reasons why you should consider studying this rewarding specialty in law school.
1. You’ll have greater stability
As long as there are taxes, there will be a need for tax lawyers—and you know what they say about death and taxes.
There’s a constant demand for tax law expertise, and your services will definitely be relevant all year round. (You may even be busier than your law school peers in litigation or other transactional work!)
While tax law isn’t completely immune to the ebb and flow of the economy, it tends to remain more stable, even in the face of economic downturns. Plus, with tax reform a perennially hot political topic, the field is likely to experience even higher demand.
Tax law can be more stable in the emotional sense too. The work is less emotionally fraught than, say, family law. So if you’re looking to avoid the dramatic side of the legal field, studying tax law might be the right choice for you.
2. There are tons of job options
Everyone is subject to tax law, which means tax lawyers can find work in virtually every employment sector.
Tax lawyers can work in both law and accounting firms, as well as with the federal and state government. They can also serve as in-house counsel for businesses too. That all adds up to lots of job prospects.
3. You’ll have a better work-life balance
Tax lawyers report working fewer and more consistent hours than their peers in other legal specialties. The only exception to this might be tax season (February to mid-April). They also say it can be easier to take vacations as a tax lawyer…though probably not around April 15.
4. You’ll earn a good salary
Tax lawyers see strong, consistent earnings. According to Glassdoor, the average annual base pay for tax lawyers in the United States is $133,580.
Granted, where you end up practicing will heavily impact your earnings. Working at a larger company or in an urban area will drive up your salary significantly. In Boston, for example, the projected entry-level salary for tax attorneys is between $99,561 and $110,462, according to Salary.com.
Though your salary may not get as high as other legal fields, like litigation, when you factor in the other desirable aspects of the job, like more flexible hours, stability, and work-life balance, the tradeoff may be worth it.
5. You can make a difference
Tax law can make a real difference—and we’re not just talking about saving a few dollars on a tax return.
Taxes can be confusing at times, and your guidance can help keep businesses afloat or a family’s finances intact. Or you might work for a charitable organization, supporting their mission from the administrative side of things. You can also volunteer your services to people who need them with organizations like the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
Finally, if you want to effect tax law change at higher level, you could work with the IRS, Treasury Department, or other government entities.
6. You’ll do fascinating work (we swear!)
It may not sound super exciting at first, but the tax code impacts so much of the U.S. economy, and even small changes can have a big impact…on everyone. As a tax lawyer, you’d be on the front lines of some of the most influential law there is!
A tax lawyer’s work can range from interpreting newly passed legislation to applying long-standing law. In any event, the issues are interesting and of vital importance to your client.
7. You can have lots of variety
There’s more variety in tax law than you might expect. From small businesses to multinational corporations to individuals across the earning spectrum (and it’s a big spectrum), tax needs vary wildly, depending on the client.
For example, you might work with a nonprofit to make sure they’re compliant with federal and state tax law and regulations, so they can keep their tax-exempt status. Or as in-house counsel, you might help your company choose the best retirement plan for its employees.
You might even work as a litigator: On one side, tax lawyers defend their clients’ tax position before the relevant agency (IRS or state Department of Revenue) and in court. On the other side, tax lawyers for the government represent their interests.
A typical day might consist of working with other lawyers on your team, doing research, and/or negotiating with lawyers representing the other side of a transaction. Or it might involve preparing for a hearing or trial. And you might work on your own or with a team handling clients, so you can get variety in your work environment too.
8. You can further specialize
Tax law is fairly niche as is, but you can further specialize—and develop even more in-demand expertise and marketable skills.
As a tax lawyer, you might focus your practice on:
- Audits and appeals
- Corporate tax
- Employee benefits
- Estate planning
- International tax law
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Real estate or other transactional work
- State and local tax
- Tax exempt organizations
And much more. It all depends on your unique interests.
9. You’ll have lots of opportunities to grow
This legal specialty can get your mind firing on all cylinders.
The tax code is challenging, and there are always new regulations to stay on top of. So if you love being an expert, you enjoy problem-solving and puzzles, you’re naturally curious, and you’re a bit of policy wonk, you may love tax law.
You might also bolster your JD in tax law with continuing education, earning an LLM in Taxation. Even in this high-demand legal specialty, that credential can turbocharge your job prospects.
Finally, you can make a name for yourself in the field, sharing your tax law expertise by writing articles and presenting at conferences or other professional events. In a specialty as ever-changing as tax law, even tax lawyers want to learn from other tax lawyers!
Is tax law right for you?
Plenty of students get hooked on tax law after they come to law school. You don’t need to have an accounting degree—you don’t even need to be a numbers whiz. But if you have a background in business or accounting and you’re considering law school, tax law is a great way to marry your interests and skills.
You can find strong tax law programs by looking for law schools with tax-related extracurriculars, expert faculty with related experience, and tax clinics. It can also help to look for a law school mentoring program that will pair your with individuals with tax law experience.
To get a sense of what your law school experience might be like in tax law, explore the Pathway to the Profession of Tax Law here.
Jessica Tomer is the Web Content Manager at New England Law | Boston.