Tyler Roberts 2017-11-08 06:21:13
Tax Law Tax law touches nearly every aspect of the law and is critical to the practice of corporate law, estate planning, business planning and property law. For lawyers with specialized knowledge of tax law, the ubiquity of state and federal tax codes presents the opportunity for a challenging and rewarding career. Many law schools offer advanced law degrees, or LL.M. degrees, in tax law, which can be extremely valuable to employers. But law students do not need to wait until after earning their J.D.s to pursue this practice area. A number of law schools offer concentrations, certificates, clinics and externships designed to prepare students to enter the profession with a solid understanding of tax law. At Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, students can complete a concentration in tax law choosing from a wealth of specialized courses. Full-time faculty, as opposed to adjunct and visiting professors, teach most of the tax law courses. Edward Zelinsky, a tax law scholar and professor at Cardozo School of Law, said the availability of professors to answer questions and discuss tax issues provides a tremendous advantage. “In terms of private sector work, you can’t imagine a better place to be than the corner of 5th and 12th,” All the major transactions are taking place just a few miles from campus.” —EDWARD ZELINSKY, PROFESSOR, CARDOZO SCHOOL OF LAW preLaw magazine graded law schools based on the breadth of their curricular offerings. The scores were weighted as follows: 30% for a concentration, 24% for a clinic, 12% for a center, 12% for an externship, 9% for a journal, 8% for a student group and 5% for a certificate. An A represents a score of 90% or higher, an A- is 78% to 89% and a B+ is 72% to 77%. “These are esoteric, complex subjects,” Zelinsky said. “Our professors are able to teach and interact with our students on a very complicated subject.” Students at Cardozo School of Law also have the benefit of geography. It is situated in downtown Manhattan at the epicenter of tax law transactions. “In terms of private sector work, you can’t imagine a better place to be than the corner of 5th and 12th,” Zelinsky said. “All the major transactions are taking place just a few miles from campus.” For law students interested in practicing tax law in the public sector, Washington, D.C., is one of the top places to be. At The George Washington University Law School, for example, students can take basic and advanced tax law courses. But that is not all. Students also have the opportunity to tour the U.S. Tax Court and attend tax career panels hosted by prominent lawyers from local firms and legislative tax-writing committees. In addition, the law school offers participation in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, alumni meet-and-greets for tax career advice and a fun event called Tax Movie Night. West Coast law students have similar opportunities to study tax law in top-ranked programs. At Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, students can participate in four different tax clinics. The programs include the IRS Small Case Tax Clinic, the Nonprofit Tax & Transactional Clinic, the Sales & Use Tax Clinic and the State Income Tax Clinic. By participating in the State Income Tax Clinic and the Sales & Use Tax Clinic, students at Loyola have the opportunity to work under the supervision of California State Board of Equalization attorneys. Students provide representation to members of the public who have qualifying sales and use tax matters pending with the board. Students interview and counsel their clients, write legal memorandums and briefs and may even represent clients at appeals conferences and oral hearings before the board. Just a short drive away is Chapman University Fowler School of Law, where students work in the Appellate Tax Advocacy Clinic, the only appellate-level clinic focused specifically on tax law. Students participate in docketed appellate tax cases by writing amicus curiae briefs for matters affecting federal, state or local tax law. Meanwhile Chapman Law’s Tax Clinic assists clients at the trial level. Students represent low-income taxpayers before the IRS and U.S. Tax Court and, in many cases, are able to settle tax disputes with the IRS. If settlement efforts fail, students have the opportunity to take the case to trial. When the clinic started, the IRS was skeptical, Chapman Law Professor George Willis said. “In the last few years, that attitude has completely changed,” he said. “They know that these students do their homework, that they are speaking to someone educated on the law, and they are able to get cases resolved.” There is a real benefit to studying and practicing tax law during law school, Willis added. “Students that graduate from our program will hopefully be able to recognize and understand the tax consequences of whatever they are working on,” he said. By graduating with a concentration in tax law, students can demonstrate to employers that they have a solid grasp on the basics of tax law, giving them a leg up when searching for jobs after graduation. preLaw magazine graded law schools based on the breadth of their curricular offerings. The scores were weighted as follows: 30% for a concentration, 24% for a clinic, 12% for a center, 12% for an externship, 9% for a journal, 8% for a student group and 5% for a certificate. An A represents a score of 90% or higher, an A- is 78% to 89% and a B+ is 72% to 77%. Business, Banking and Corporate Law For students wishing to pursue transactional practice areas, many law schools offer broad programming in the areas of business, corporate and banking law. Case Western Reserve University School of Law students are introduced to these practice areas during their first year as part of the law school’s skill development program. Students interested in transactional law can take a third-semester skills course focused on skills needed to succeed in practice areas such as business law and compliance. “Our school has always been aggressive in incorporating skills into the student experience,” said Jonathan Adler, professor and director of the Center for Business Law & Regulation. “We have developed a lot of different opportunities for students interested in transactional practice areas.” Outside of the classroom, students at Case Western Reserve are exposed to a variety of transactional issues through its Center for Business Law and Regulation and its recently launched Financial Integrity Institute. Both centers sponsor research programs and public academic programs open to students that focus on topics relevant to business and financial regulation. Clinical opportunities to explore business- related issues are also available to Case Western law students through Fusion, an interdisciplinary certificate program that teams law students with business and engineering students. Students can also participate in the IP Venture Clinic, where they represent startup companies as they develop plans to commercialize technology. At University of Washington School of Law, there are several business-related concentrations for students to choose from. “Business law is so broad, and we want to make sure students are properly advised in specific practice areas,” professor Scott Schumacher said. The number of business law-related courses a student at University of Washington can take may seem overwhelming, but the law school is on a quarter system, meaning it can offer more courses than schools following a semester system, Schumacher said. “What UW Law is able to do is unique because of the companies and innovative industry leaders involved. students are able to learn from the practitioners working on the cutting edge of the law.” —SCOTT SCHUMACHER , PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON SCHOOL OF LAW Full-time faculty members teach foundational courses, and local lawyers teach highly specialized courses. University of Washington’s location in the heart of Seattle gives students opportunities to engage with professionals in one of the most innovative business environments in the U.S. “What UW Law is able to do is unique because of the companies and innovative industry leaders involved,” Schumacher said. “Students are able to learn from the practitioners working on the cutting edge of the law.” For students interested in financial regulation, Duke University School of Law has a center dedicated to it. Through the school’s Global Financial Markets Center, students are exposed to complex issues they may face in a highly regulated practice area. “A lot of students do not have a financial background when they come to law school,” said Lee Reiners, director of the Global Financial Markets Center. “We give students an understanding of the financial industry landscape and how all the pieces fit together.” The center sponsors speeches, movie screenings, panel discussions and a financial market boot camp for students who have never taken a financial course. The boot camp covers the basics of stocks, bonds, discounted cash flows, derivatives and sovereign debt. “Obviously, law students that go into financial regulatory practice after graduation do not need to be experts, but to the extent that our students grasp the vocabulary, they have a leg up on their competition,” Reiners said.
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