July 21, 2018

Should an “Accidental” Tax Lawyer Go Back to School to Qualify for the CPA?

Back again with another edition of fix my career ASAP. Today, “an accidental tax lawyer” wants to obtain a CPA to bolster his small practice. Other lawyers look at him like he’s “crazy” when he discusses the IRC but our Regretful JD enjoys all the minutiae. Problem is, he’ll have to start from scratch since he has business background. Is this plan gold or is he a glutton for punishment?

Are you suffering from a case of summer-is-ending-which-means-busy-season-is-right-around-the-corner blues and are wondering if it’s time for a new job? Does your golf game suck? Do you wear pinstripes? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll suggest something that wins.

Back to our lawyer friend:

So, long story short:

I’m an accidental tax lawyer. I studied neuroscience in college and went to law school to do patents. I took personal income tax as a summer course after my first year, was surprised that I both liked it and did well. Through the remaining two years of law school, I took corporate tax, gift and estate tax, state and local tax, natural resource taxation, two tax seminars, and averaged an A- in them all. Graduated, passed the bar and opened my own tax shop, mostly small business and non-profit formation, opinion letters for CPAs and walking taxpayers through audits. I operate on a one-stop-shop model-come to me and I’ll handle your legal and tax planning needs. I’m good at what I do, and I’ve been profitable since the first year.

Here’s where you guys come in: I think I’d really enjoy being a CPA. Other lawyers look at me like I’m crazy when I talk about the internal revenue code, but I find tax planning enjoyable and it lets me be creative. Am I crazy to consider going back and taking the courses necessary to qualify for the CPA exam? My local public university offers a graduate “Pre-CPA” program, with just the courses required to qualify for the exam. As an undergrad, I took two semesters of calculus and two semesters of inferential statistics, but the rest was basically hard science (physics, microbiology, organic chemistry, neuroanatomy, pharmacology, etc). Except for my tax law background, I’d basically be starting from scratch.

Hell, is there even a market for CPA/JDs? I don’t need to work Big Four (I like meeting with and managing my clients on a personal level. I find it very rewarding), but to keep a roof over my head I’d need to earn at least mid-five figures. If I continue with the solo practice model, I’d be able to provide accounting, tax and legal services, but I’m not sure that accounting as a value-add would be worth tuition + lost opportunity time when I’m studying instead of working.

Any advice you can offer me is appreciated.

Sign me off,
“Regretful JD”

Dear Regretful JD,

First off, if that’s the short version, thanks for sparing us the details. YEESH. Secondly, neuroscience to patents to tax is quite the interesting progression but we won’t pry…it was a woman, wasn’t it?

Now, then. Your situation. Personally I think you’re at a huge advantage compared to the CPAs out there that are thinking about going to law school. Some of you remember the post we did last year discussing that particular jump and it’s not an easy one. Law school grads, as our friends at Above the Law will tell you, aren’t exactly drowning in job opportunities these days but they are being suffocated by six-figure school debt. For you, Regretful JD, that ship has sailed. You’ve got your practice set up, enjoy the work, and are earning a steady dollar.

The problem, as you stated, is that you’d be starting from scratch. If you’re single and don’t have a grip of cash stuffed in your mattress to get you through the “Pre-CPA” program, you’re going to be living on Cup o’ Noodles and saltines smeared with dijon mustard. Are you ready to make that sacrifice? What about your clients? Are you just going to drop them or will you attempt to keep them by promising the world and more once you’ve got your CPA? Your life could be a living hell trying to juggle tax seasons and school work.

As for your question regarding “a market for CPA/JDs” our aforementioned post found that, yes, there is something to be said for the CPA and JD white-collar, one-two punch. Being able to understand legal ramifications of your clients’ decisions as well as being able to dig into the numbers and actually understand them has proven to be a great selling point.

Ultimately the decision comes down to one of logistics. Can you work, go to school and maintain your sanity and/or shred of a social life that you have left? It’s not impossible but you’ll have a rough couple of years, to be sure (don’t forget about the CPA Exam!). Those that have done it will likely say it was worth the struggle but everyone has their breaking point. What’s yours?

Also see:
Tax Lawyer Pursuing CPA Needs to Know: Take More Classes or Cram with a Review Course? [GC]
The Scam That Accounting Education Isn’t [GC]

Back again with another edition of fix my career ASAP. Today, “an accidental tax lawyer” wants to obtain a CPA to bolster his small practice. Other lawyers look at him like he’s “crazy” when he discusses the IRC but our Regretful JD enjoys all the minutiae. Problem is, he’ll have to start from scratch since he has business background. Is this plan gold or is he a glutton for punishment?

Are you suffering from a case of summer-is-ending-which-means-busy-season-is-right-around-the-corner blues and are wondering if it’s time for a new job? Does your golf game suck? Do you wear pinstripes? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll suggest something that wins.

Back to our lawyer friend:

So, long story short:

I’m an accidental tax lawyer. I studied neuroscience in college and went to law school to do patents. I took personal income tax as a summer course after my first year, was surprised that I both liked it and did well. Through the remaining two years of law school, I took corporate tax, gift and estate tax, state and local tax, natural resource taxation, two tax seminars, and averaged an A- in them all. Graduated, passed the bar and opened my own tax shop, mostly small business and non-profit formation, opinion letters for CPAs and walking taxpayers through audits. I operate on a one-stop-shop model-come to me and I’ll handle your legal and tax planning needs. I’m good at what I do, and I’ve been profitable since the first year.

Here’s where you guys come in: I think I’d really enjoy being a CPA. Other lawyers look at me like I’m crazy when I talk about the internal revenue code, but I find tax planning enjoyable and it lets me be creative. Am I crazy to consider going back and taking the courses necessary to qualify for the CPA exam? My local public university offers a graduate “Pre-CPA” program, with just the courses required to qualify for the exam. As an undergrad, I took two semesters of calculus and two semesters of inferential statistics, but the rest was basically hard science (physics, microbiology, organic chemistry, neuroanatomy, pharmacology, etc). Except for my tax law background, I’d basically be starting from scratch.

Hell, is there even a market for CPA/JDs? I don’t need to work Big Four (I like meeting with and managing my clients on a personal level. I find it very rewarding), but to keep a roof over my head I’d need to earn at least mid-five figures. If I continue with the solo practice model, I’d be able to provide accounting, tax and legal services, but I’m not sure that accounting as a value-add would be worth tuition + lost opportunity time when I’m studying instead of working.

Any advice you can offer me is appreciated.

Sign me off,
“Regretful JD”

Dear Regretful JD,

First off, if that’s the short version, thanks for sparing us the details. YEESH. Secondly, neuroscience to patents to tax is quite the interesting progression but we won’t pry…it was a woman, wasn’t it?

Now, then. Your situation. Personally I think you’re at a huge advantage compared to the CPAs out there that are thinking about going to law school. Some of you remember the post we did last year discussing that particular jump and it’s not an easy one. Law school grads, as our friends at Above the Law will tell you, aren’t exactly drowning in job opportunities these days but they are being suffocated by six-figure school debt. For you, Regretful JD, that ship has sailed. You’ve got your practice set up, enjoy the work, and are earning a steady dollar.

The problem, as you stated, is that you’d be starting from scratch. If you’re single and don’t have a grip of cash stuffed in your mattress to get you through the “Pre-CPA” program, you’re going to be living on Cup o’ Noodles and saltines smeared with dijon mustard. Are you ready to make that sacrifice? What about your clients? Are you just going to drop them or will you attempt to keep them by promising the world and more once you’ve got your CPA? Your life could be a living hell trying to juggle tax seasons and school work.

As for your question regarding “a market for CPA/JDs” our aforementioned post found that, yes, there is something to be said for the CPA and JD white-collar, one-two punch. Being able to understand legal ramifications of your clients’ decisions as well as being able to dig into the numbers and actually understand them has proven to be a great selling point.

Ultimately the decision comes down to one of logistics. Can you work, go to school and maintain your sanity and/or shred of a social life that you have left? It’s not impossible but you’ll have a rough couple of years, to be sure (don’t forget about the CPA Exam!). Those that have done it will likely say it was worth the struggle but everyone has their breaking point. What’s yours?

Also see:
Tax Lawyer Pursuing CPA Needs to Know: Take More Classes or Cram with a Review Course? [GC]
The Scam That Accounting Education Isn’t [GC]

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PwC’s Recruitment of MBA’s is Good News on the Hiring Front, Sort Of (UPDATE)

pwclogo.thumbnail.jpgFINS.com has a piece on the Big 4’s recruitment of MBA’s that serves as lukewarm encouragement for those of you have considered the painstaking thought of going back to school.
More, after the jump

PricewaterhouseCoopers is ramping up its hiring of M.B.A.s, with plans to recruit 75 to 100 business-school graduates in 2010. [The Firm] planned to bring on 60 to 90 graduates from master’s degree in business programs in 2009, up from 40 last year…An improving economy and the need to make sense of new regulatory guidelines in the financial sector are what’s driving the trend

As you might expect, the hiring occurs in the advisory practices of the firms while those of you with that went back to get a master’s in accounting will most likely end up in audit or tax practices.

At PWC, most M.B.A. recruits have three to seven years’ experience and fill senior associate posts in its advisory practice. The M.B.A.s that it hires are recruited to work in finance, operations and supply-change management and human-capital management.

The article is less enthusiastic about the other firms, however:

Big Four rival Ernst & Young is hiring about 20 b-school grads into its performance-improvement practice this year, dipping from a peak of 25 in 2007 when it began hiring M.B.A.s…While KPMG does not actively recruit M.B.A.s since its consulting practice spun off in 2002, it does targeted M.B.A. hiring, according to Malana Sanders, a KPMG recruiting director…Deloitte does hire M.B.A.s, though, said Diane Borhani, head of U.S. campus recruiting for Deloitte in Chicago, who declined to provide specifics

So we’re at a loss on how we feel about this. On the one hand, it’s good to see at least one firm ending the slash and burn that’s been going on for the last 12-15 months (even if this is just advisory) but are you ready to go back to eating cup o’ noodles, no keg stands, and more school debt to do it?
Since it sounds like layoffs will occur regularly at the firms and BW says that two-thirds of you leave the firms within five years anyway, going back to school may be in the cards for a lot of you.
For those of you that fall in the 3 – 7 years experience range, discuss what, if any, thoughts you’ve had on going back to school and if would you go with a Big 4 firm. Scary thought, we know.
PricewaterhouseCoopers and Rivals are Recruiting More M.B.A.s [FINS.com]

Job of the Week: Do You Have a Preternatural Ability for GAAP Disclosures?

hire me2.jpgSince there seems to be some unhappy campers out there we’ll take a moment of your day to tell you about a position that might make you less miserable or hopefully better compensated:
Company: Morgan Stanley
Location: New York
Title: Associate/Manager
Description: Associate or Manager for our Legal Entity Accounting & Disclosure Group. Responsibilities will include gaining an understanding of the firm’s equity financing products, derivatives and securities lending business in order to assist in producing and analyzing many of the division’s financial accounting disclosures.
Skills Required: BS or BA in Finance and/or Accounting, CPA preferred; 3-5 years of experience in Public Accounting and/or financial services industry; Must have thorough understanding of FAS 133, FAS 140, FIN 46, FAS 157 and FAS 161 FASB pronouncements
See the full description at the GC Career Center and if this position doesn’t tickle your get your ass off the couch/ship-jumping bone, go to the main page and find your next temporary dream job.