The complex, ever-changing nature of tax law is driving the demand for attorneys who have the necessary expertise to help businesses and individual clients navigate a wide range of tax-related issues. Practicing tax law can also lead to abundant opportunities for professional growth as the legal sector becomes increasingly specialized and more organizations bring legal services in-house. Lawyers at any stage of their careers can deepen their knowledge and develop useful skills by pursuing an advanced degree in tax law, such as a Master of Laws in Taxation (LLM).
Why Study Tax Law?
Tax attorneys are perennially in high demand because of their ability to handle complex business transactions, provide tax counseling and help clients comply with complicated government regulations. Tax law is a preferred specialization for attorneys who have an interest in business transactions, estate planning, corporate law and similar financial areas, according to the American Bar Association journal Tax Lawyer. Having a background in math or science is also beneficial for those who work in the field. Perhaps the greatest single reason lawyers choose to specialize in tax law is because they enjoy the work.
While an LLM is not a mandatory prerequisite for practicing tax law, many taxation firms now only hire tax attorneys who have earned the degree, according to FindLaw. Whether the goal is employment at one of these firms or supplementing existing skills, both recent law school graduates and veterans who have practiced for several years can benefit from taking advanced courses in tax law.
New lawyers might enroll in a Master of Laws in Taxation program to develop a legal specialty and distinguish themselves from other recent graduates in the job market. They can also begin to accumulate real-world experience, establish professional networks and learn how to stay current on continual changes to the tax code.
Established lawyers can leverage an LLM to become better equipped to handle certain types of tax issues, seek employment at a taxation firm or work in other types of businesses in which taxation laws play a critical role. They may also be able to apply their skills by providing new types of legal services for their clients.
A Day in the Life of a Tax Attorney
Tax attorneys may work in a variety of settings, including large and small law firms, corporate offices, accounting firms, and government agencies. Because the rapid pace of change in the tax law field requires lawyers to stay up to date on the tax code, they often start their workdays by perusing tax publications that report on the latest developments relevant to their practices. Typical news items might include updates on guidance from the IRS or discussions of the tax implications of recent government regulations. Tax attorneys tend to engage in research more often than lawyers in general practice or those in other legal specialties, according to the legal news website Above the Law. In fact, the primary duty of junior associates at many tax law firms is to conduct research on specific tax topics.
Tax lawyers may interact with auditors, corporate executives, and professionals in industries such as finance and real estate. Some attorneys deal directly with officials at the IRS, the Treasury Department and other government agencies. While the demand for the services of tax attorneys often fluctuates with economic cycles, tax firms are generally busiest whenever there is a significant change in the tax code or other related government regulations.
Job Outlook for Tax Attorneys
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts that the job market for all attorneys will increase by 8 percent between 2016 and 2026, slightly more than the 7 percent growth expected for all occupations. BLS also notes that corporations are hiring more in-house attorneys rather than contracting for outside legal services. This trend bodes well for tax attorneys who aspire to a position in fields such as finance, insurance, consulting and health care.
Tax Attorneys Gain Skills From an Advanced Degree
A key to success in any legal profession is to be the best-prepared person when engaging with colleagues, clients and professional contacts. Entry to the world of tax law begins with a first-rate education that prepares lawyers to respond to the ever-changing dynamics of a tax law practice, whether in a law firm, as an in-house tax attorney or in private practice. Master of Laws in Taxation programs prepare lawyers to work on corporate transactions of all types, including mergers and acquisitions, partnerships, international contracts, issuance of securities, and employee benefits, all of which have significant tax implications.
Created and run jointly by the Charles Widger School of Law and the Villanova School of Business, Villanova University’s Graduate Tax Program (which includes the Master of Laws in Taxation) features a faculty of tax law experts whose careers include work at nationally recognized corporations and accounting firms and in private law practice. Its collaborative approach to education is geared toward promoting the intellectual and personal growth of students to prepare them to join the ranks of ethical, critical-thinking tax law leaders.
The program’s curriculum encompasses all aspects of tax law and is updated continually to reflect new developments in the field. The program focuses on teaching creative approaches to solving real-world tax law problems. As the program is offered completely online with no residency requirement, , students may customize their coursework to match their interests and schedules. Required courses include Survey of Tax, Professional Practice and Tax Procedure, Taxation of Corporations and Shareholders, and Partnership Taxation.
More than 20 electives offered through the program teach students skills they can apply directly to their tax law practices. Among them are five different courses in state and local tax, as well as Intro to International Tax, Executive Compensation, Employee Benefits, Taxation of Real Estate Transactions, Taxation of Trusts and Estates, Fundamentals of Lifetime Estate Planning, and Qualified Pensions and Profit Sharing Plans.
The Journey to a Bright Tax Law Career Begins Here
Earning an LLM in taxation can create new opportunities for attorneys with any level of experience to advance their careers in tax law. Veteran lawyers can expand their practices into dynamic, fruitful new areas, and those who are new to the legal profession can gain real-world experience and bring themselves up to speed quickly to keep up with the fast pace of change in tax law. LLM graduates who have intellectual curiosity, a love of research and a business background can become more competitive for a variety of rich employment opportunities in the field of tax law.
Villanova University’s online Master of Laws in Taxation program helps students broaden the skills they need to offer clients a premier level of tax-related legal services. Attorneys may work through the curriculum at their own pace, and the program can be completed in as little as 18 months. Visit the program website to learn more today.