Lawyers

Legal Experts Think KPMG France Will Likely Get Away With Fidal Lawyer Poaching

Early last week we told you guys about KPMG France recently stealing away 130 lawyers (some reports say 144 or 145 lawyers) away from France’s largest law firm, Fidal, which is threatening to sue the Big 4 firm for “unfair competition.” But legal experts who were interviewed by Law.com say Fidal’s case against KPMG is […]

KPMG France Just Poached 130 Lawyers From a French Law Firm, Which Is Understandably Pissed

In Going Concern’s nine-plus-year history, Caleb and Adrienne have chronicled many, many instances of “competitive poaching” among the Big 4 firms. PwC and KPMG, in particular, have a long history of poaching from one another. But with the Big 4 firms’ legal brands showing huge growth among alternative legal service providers, what is starting to […]

PwC Defense Attorney Putting a Lot of Faith in a Florida Jury

Starting Monday, PwC will go trial in Florida over a financial crisis-era case. The plaintiff is the bankruptcy trustee for Taylor Bean and Whitaker Mortgage Corp, who is seeking $5.5 billion in damages, claiming that "PwC was negligent in not detecting a massive fraud scheme that brought down Taylor Bean and helped trigger the 2009 […]

34-Count Indictment Won’t Stop Accountant from Serving His Clients: Lawyer

Jack Weichman, CPA has been indicted on 34 criminal charges ranging from bank fraud to money laundering to filing false tax returns, among others. His attorney, for one, is flabbergasted by this situation:  In a statement issued Thursday morning, Weichman's attorney, Theodore Poulos, said "we are deeply disappointed and, quite frankly, appalled that the government […]

Law Firms Need Not Worry About the Likes of EY Law, Says EY Law Guy

This is amazing. The head of EY Law Global Leader Cornelius Grossman is saying — with a straight face, presumably — that firms like his won't pose a threat to law firms. Saying that accounting firms providing legal services doesn't threaten law firms is like saying Uber doesn't threaten taxis, but okay!  "The threat of […]

A Few Law Schools Come to Their Senses, Start Offering Accounting Boot Camps

“Lawyers, because they work for and with business people, think that they’re good at business. Lawyers are NOT good business people.”

Is the Pay Gap in Public Accounting Firms Widening?

American Lawyer has an interesting story about the growing pay gap in law, meaning a small handful of top guys are bringing in $10 million or more, while the low level grunts at the associate level are bringing home a paltry $160,000, on average. Let’s take a look:

Review Teacher Admits Review is Useless if You are Useless

I know some of you would rather have a quadruple wisdom tooth removal than peruse Above the Law (because lawyers, amiright?), which is why we do that for you. In today's Ask the Professor, Prof Joseph Marino writes: I have been helping students pass the bar exam for over four decades. Before me, my father […]

If You Aren’t Getting the Work-Life Balance You Want, Maybe You Should Sue

This Fortune piece is probably just one big troll but if not, this could be a reality at an accounting firm near you: A slew of gender discrimination lawsuits coming out of big banks point to something we all already know: women in finance don’t have it easy. A male-dominated industry notorious for its long […]

Friendly Reminder for Professional Ladies: Don’t Dress Like a Skank at Work

Why is it these memos are almost always directed at female professionals? Why does no one call out dudes on wrinkled shirts, ill-fitting pants that look like your older brother's hand-me-downs and awful, scuffed up shoes of the sort an elderly man with arthritis might buy out of a medical supply catalog? This passive aggressive, […]

Idiots Accused of Insider Trading Used Sketchy Post-It Method, Creative Digestion

Insider trading accusations are often boring, routine and totally predictable. But this reads like something out of a poorly-written detective novel, for real: The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a stockbroker and a managing clerk at a law firm with insider trading around more than a dozen mergers or other corporate transactions for illicit […]

If No One Will Hire You, Maybe It’s Because Your Parents Aren’t Offering to Pay Them

Today's dose of lawyerly schadenfreude comes courtesy Above the Law, which is pretty much to Going Concern as watching Hoarders is for people who aren't the best at keeping up with housework: Times are still desperate for recent law graduates looking for work. There’s no guarantee that you are going to get a good job… […]

If Lawyers From Certain Schools Don’t Need to Take the Bar, Should Accounting Follow That Lead?

Today, in "aren't you glad you majored in accounting instead of going to law school" news, we have this proposal being discussed on Above the Law. Basically, eliminating the bar exam requirement would somehow produce better quality lawyers who could hurry up and start practicing sooner, which means they can pay back their student loans […]

Another Reason To Be Glad You Are Not a Lawyer, As If You Needed One

The main reason for anyone here to read ATL is not for the razor-sharp wit nor timely commentary on the profession of law. No, it's to make all of you feel better about your own miserable lives. Exhibit ZZ: A person has placed an ad on the Los Angeles Craigslist board with the subject line: […]

A PwC Lawyer Who Recently Left the Firm Is Missing in China

Ugh. This doesn't sound good. An in-house lawyer for PwC has gone missing in China. Steve Leavenworth is American but has lived China for 17 years, according to the Telegraph. He recently left PwC after 15 years and was on a solo backpacking trip through Yunnan province when the bus he was believed to be on […]

Lawyers Suing Moss Adams Remain Unflappable After Judge Tells Them to Get Lost

As you may or may not remember, the largest Ponzi Scheme in the state of Washington was perpetrated by a man named Frederick Darren Berg. His company, Meridian Group, bilked investors out of $150 million or so and now the bankruptcy trustee for the company is trying to recover some of those funds. One of […]

Studying for the CPA Exam at the Beach Isn’t Really an Option Since Most Candidates Have Jobs

A recent article by the New York Times is widening the massive canyon between accounting grads and law grads by reminding everyone just how different life is for would-be lawyers. Granted, with something like a 106% unemployment rate for new law grads and 100% utilization of new accounting grads1, it makes sense that a select […]

Kaption Kontest Friday: Say Kheese!

Via the New York Times, ex-KPMG Partner Scott London (right) leaves court with his attorney, Harland Braun yesterday in Los Angeles.

FYI: Attorneys Think Auditors’ Legal Confirmation Letters Are a Giant Waste of Time

Mark Herrmann, the in-house legal columnist at Above the Law, has a bone to pick today and it's one the opiners out there are intimately familiar with: When I worked at a law firm, I knew that lawyers’ responses to audit letters — in which the firm confirms to auditors the status of litigation pending […]

Things Looking Up for Two Ex-Ernst & Young Tax Evasion Specialists; Two Others, Not So Much

For former Ernst & Young lawyers Richard Shapiro and Martin Nissenbaum, things couldn't get much better than a panel of judges overturning the convictions for your roles in selling illegal tax shelters. Their pals Robert Coplan and Brian Vaughn weren't so lucky, however: A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York ruled […]

Arthur Andersen’s Bones Still Have Some Meat on Them

Hey, an extra $38 million for the WorldCom fiasco is an extra $38 million: Two law firms, Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossman LLP and Barrack Rodos & Bacine, announced the proposed settlement Monday. They noted that the lead plaintiff previously achieved settlements with various defendants in the case for over $6.1 billion plus interest to […]

Internal Control Zealots May Be Helpful in Preventing Accounting-related Reckonings

Lawyers. Gotta love 'em. They have many functions but when it comes to accounting and financial reporting, it's usually to sue the pants off those who make gross errors in these two areas. Maybe the company was stupid; maybe the company did something illegal. It doesn't matter. If some numbers are wrong and someone lost […]

The Deloitte Principal Who Wrote the ‘Watered-down’ Report for Standard Chartered Bank Has a Wikipedia Page

On Monday, we learned that Deloitte found itself in a bit of awkward situation with New York's Department of Financial Services because they "apparently aided" Standard Chartered Bank in hiding about $250 billion in transactions with Iran. In the order, DFS Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky states that Deloitte "intentionally omitted critical information in its 'independent report' […]

Lawyer Suing Moss Adams Seems to Have Hurt Feelings After Opposing Counsel Called His Lawsuit “Flimsy”

Anyone remember Frederick Darren Berg? He's a guy who had a thing – nay, a passion – for charter buses. It just so happens that he also was running Washington's largest ever Ponzi scheme to finance his passion. Moss Adams (who Berg says is not at fault) was the auditor for FDB's Meridian funds – […]

Dewey Think an Accounting Firm Could Go Bankrupt?

Michael Cohn over at Accounting Today wonders if an accounting firm could suffer the same fate as recently departed global law firm Dewey & Leboeuf. It's a question worth asking since the entity structures for both accounting and law firms are similar and mergers are common in both industries. But really, it's not as likely (although not […]

Andrew Fastow Has Some Food for Thought

The ex-CFO of Enron, oh humbly, asks: "If the internal and external auditors and lawyers sign off on it, does that make it okay?" History has shown us that, "that all depends." However, maybe things have changed?  [via HBR]

(UPDATE) Things Are So Bad at Law Firm Dewey & LeBoeuf That One of Its Top Partners Left for KPMG

You might not be aware of this, but mega law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf is in a lot of trouble. It seems to have started back in February with rumors of financial troubles and things have spiraled from there. Partners leaving in droves. Late bonuses. Layoffs. Problems with K-1s. The bright side of all these troubles […]

Tax Court Not Convinced That F. Lee Bailey Didn’t Have Fun Owning a Custom-made Yacht

For those of you not familiar, F. Lee Bailey was one of the defense lawyers on O.J. Simpson's dream team of attorneys. His star moment was when he asked the lead detective on the case, Mark Furhman, if he had used the n-word in the last ten years, who said that he had not. When […]

The Distaste for IRS’ Tax Preparer Regulations Has Reached Its Apex

The only question is, why did it took take so long? A nonprofit group plans to sue the Internal Revenue Service and argue that the agency’s effort to regulate tax-return preparers is unlawful. The Institute for Justice, an organization in Arlington, Virginia, that seeks to protect individual liberties, said in a statement it will file the […]

What Pippins v. KPMG Could Mean for Your Firm

Ed. note: This post is republished from AccountingWEB. Any employer who has faced potential class action wage and hour lawsuits knows what a headache they can be. Due to a recent court ruling, employers have a lot more to worry about. That case, Pippins v. KPMG LLP, has caused tremendous turmoil and confusion among those […]

Could Someone Have Tax Problems Big Enough to Walk Away From $14 million?

That’s one explanation for a weird story where a New York lawyer acting on behalf of holder of a winning lottery ticket purchased at a Des Moines convenience store let the ticket expire rather than revealing the identity of the ticket owner.   The ticket was turned in hours before its expiration by a Des […]

New York Court Invites All KPMG Audit Associates to Play in Overtime Lawsuit

Law firm Outten & Golden has issued a press release today announcing any House of Klynveld audit associates who are feeling a little short changed because they missed out on overtime pay are now officially invited to join in the fun.  A New York federal court conditionally certified a national collective action lawsuit that alleges […]

PwC Now Picking Up Talent From a Big Law Firm

Namely, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. Pamela Olson will head up PwC’s Washington National Tax Services practice when she leaves her position as Skadden’s Washington office tax group on January 1st. From the sounds of it, everyone is pretty giddy about this, mostly because Ms. Olson is kind of a big deal. “Everyone in the tax community knows Pam,” said Mark Mendola, PwC’s U.S. Tax leader. “Now our clients will be able to gain from her wisdom. In the current uncertain economic environment, the counsel she will provide to PwC clients is certain to be more invaluable than ever before.”

Why does everyone know her? Well she’s pretty good at what she does and she’s been around. She’s been an assistant secretary of tax policy with the Treasury department, chair of the American Bar Association’s Section of Taxation, a senior economic adviser to the Bush-Cheney campaign (we won’t hold that against her), a tax adviser to the National Commission on Economic Growth and Tax Reform and “repeatedly in Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business and The Best Lawyers in America for tax law.”

So not exactly a lightweight. All this and she never worked a day at KPMG. Amazing.

[via PwC]

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 advice@goingconcern.com 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]

Next Time You’re Making Up Lame CPA Exam Excuses, Consider This Lady

This woman should shame all of you into cracking open the books, knocking off the whining and doing the damn thing once and for all.

From our former brother from another mother site, Above the Law:

“A friend of mine went into labor while taking the Illinois bar exam,” a tipster told us. “She calmly finished, went to the hospital, and had her baby an hour or two later. Girl’s a real trooper.”

“A certain Northwestern Law alumna went into labor during the second day of the Illinois bar,” said a second source. “She finished the exam and had her baby, her first, at 5:58 p.m. I think that is worth noting.”

Yes, you read that correctly. She was in labor during her exam and still managed to finish. Makes the puking CPA exam candidate seem like a big fat baby (no pun intended) now, no?

Before the start of the afternoon session on day two (Wednesday) of the Illinois bar exam, the very pregnant MBE [“Mother Bar Exam”] mentioned to the proctors the possibility that she might give birth during the test. She asked if she could leave early in the event that she went into labor; they agreed.

So Mother Bar Exam sat down for the afternoon session of the Multistate Bar Exam (“MBE”). Not long after, she started going into labor — not a little discomfort, but full-on labor.

“This was something we joked about with her before the test,” a friend told us. “We didn’t think it would actually happen!”

Fortunately, MBE is as strong as they come. She continued to answer MBE questions, while in active labor, before finishing the exam early, at 4 p.m.

Wait… 9 months pregnant, in active labor and she still finished with time to spare? That woman is the ultimate bad ass.

Granted, it’s not quite fair to compare the bar to the CPA. The bar is held twice a year like the CPA exam used to be, surely this candidate (do they call them candidates?) knew her getting knocked up timeline landed her right in the lap of this possibility. You don’t just throw away that kind of prep to go to the hospital and wait out hours upon hours of labor if you have the uterine fortitude to stick it out.

That said, it’s worth pointing out that her hospital happened to be right across the street from the test.

Tax Lady Roni Deutch Says She Had to Be ‘Dead or in a Mental Hospital’ for the California Bar to Help Her Clients

Now that Tax Lady Roni Deutch has been forced to abdicate her royal tax credentials due to pressure from the State Bar of California and the fact that she’s completely broke, one has to wonder, “what will happen to all those people that watched late-night TV and called TLRD for help?” That’s a good question! Roni would sure like to know, since the California Bar said she had to lose her marbles or be six feet under for them to help out. Based on the press conference from last week, she doesn’t seem to be dead (far from it, in fact) but committable? You be the judge:

[via DMWT]

PwC Survey: Working People to Death Might Cause Them to Quit Their Jobs

Shocking survey results out of PwC today as the firm announced that overworking staff increases turnover at law firms. If you can believe that.

There is a “strong correlation” between staff turnover and chargeable hours at law firms, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Numbers released as part of their annual survey of the sector show that the top ten law firms have average turnover rates of 17-18%.
According to the accountancy firm, reducing turnover to less than 10% can reduce costs by £32,000 per equity partner.

In semi-ironic and related news, a bunch of bitter Big 4 employees finally decided over the Thanksgiving holiday that they would be leaving their respective firms because they are sick of the hours.

Heiress’s Lawyer Says It ‘Wasn’t His Place’ to Fire Accountant-cum-Sex Offender

“Wally” Bock isn’t sure what you want from him, MSNBC, New York Post, Daily News et al. He’s trying to run a half billion dollar fortune of a lady who doesn’t want to leave the friendly confines of Beth Israel Hospital.

He can’t be bothered with trivial matters like whether Irving Kamsler pleaded guilty to sending porn to adolescent girls. And besides! It wasn’t even his call.


In his statement to appease the haters, Bock wrote, “I was never in any position to fire Mr. Kamsler; that decision was Ms. Clark’s alone. I did insist that he disclose his conviction to Ms. Clark, which I understood he did.”

How about that for an awkward conversation? It’s not like going door to door in North Hollywood telling everyone you’re a pederast but explaining to a 100+ woman that you sent porn to some teenage girls might make for a few uncomfortable silences. But Bock claims Clark was cool with it, so you best not get all judgey about it.

Plus, he got to keep his CPA. Although the past has show that the New York Office of Professional Discipline isn’t really too concerned with timely action.

Attorney for 104-year-old heiress defends his handling of her finances [MSNBC]

The Scam That Accounting Education Isn’t

I complain about a lot of things in the industry that I probably should be grateful for instead: Sarbanes-Oxley, the PCAOB, the IASB and the AICPA Board of Examiners… the list goes on. I’ve done my fair share of complaining about accounting education as well (even offending some by implying professors were cheap and lazy though I certainly did not mean all or even most accounting professors) but I think it’s safe for us to say that we have it a lot better than some other professions. Like law.


Check out Critical Mass on the law school scam (the entire thing is recommended reading):

Over the years, I wrote countless law school recommendations and very, very few grad school recommendations. I never worried too much about the ones who were law school-bound–the students I worried about were the ones who decided to go for PhD’s in English. Grad school in the humanities is a scam. There are simply no jobs, tenure is disappearing, the culture of the academic humanities is pathological, and the sort of academic life grad students hope to acquire is ceasing to exist. But law school, I felt, was a safe bet–and would also offer its own variety of intellectual thrill. Who wouldn’t want to learn to think with the precision, capaciousness, originality, and historical-mindedness that the law requires? It’s beautiful and powerful and very, very useful. When done well, it’s applied scholarship, scholarship with decisiveness and impact.

But bubbles are bursting everywhere we look these days. Last month I posted about how Loyola’s law school is cooking transcripts to give its grads a leg up on the job market. Now comes word of widespread cynical profiteering at the expense of students’ futures.

Accounting education doesn’t appear to be so neatly packaged as the debt factory that law is, nor does it seem to produce too many rats to fit in our particular race. Sure, there are plenty of unequipped idiots who get through (shouldn’t professors exist to weed these out if education is, in fact, meant for the greater good of our economy and not just to create more perpetual debt?) but that happens in any profession, no more in accounting than elsewhere as far as I can tell.

Do a Google search on the law school scam and you’ll get pages upon pages of results. Do one on the accounting education scam and you’ll get one question about DeVry’s accounting program (I won’t say a word). Does that mean accounting is any better off?

Somewhere between this depressing March 2010 report from CPA Trendlines on how actual firms held up through the recession in 2009, and the rosy reports from hijacked media like CNN about how great the industry is handling this mess, lies the truth. Some areas are better than others and some accounting grads just don’t deserve a job. With the firms lining up the lawyers instead of the staff, you can bet the days of skating your way through 2 years of easy work experience are pretty much over.

Hopefully this means fewer unqualified future accountants being pushed through accounting programs that will soon be starving for qualified educators and better prospects for the bright, talented future CPAs who actually deserve a job in this industry.

“Even liars and hucksters have First Amendment rights”

A horrible fate must await an attorney when a judge has these things to say about him:

“Just because other accountants and professionals were doing something wrong does not excuse Defendant’s misconduct.”

“Defendant’s reasoning is so specious that he should have known it was wrong.”

“Defendant has been quite adept at hiding his involvement in these activities in an effort to develop what he believes is plausible deniability. Ultimately, his denials are implausible.”

“As stated earlier, the Court believes that promotion of tax schemes and structures is now Defendant’s modus operandi. These were not isolated occurrences, and the nature of his preferred method of business indicates it will continue to ng business.”

“Defendant describes himself as a “rainmaker,” and the Court finds that practically everything he has done in that capacity has been improper. The Court has no reason to believe he would not concoct and promote some other scheme of doubtful validity.”

So this led to…maybe a referral to the local attorney disciplinary board? A broad and sweeping injunction against doing further tax work?

Well, a Kansas City judge barred defendant A. Blair Stover from promoting three “schemes” he no longer promotes anyway. The judge also required him to run any other tax planning ideas by the IRS before marketing them. No disbarment. No banishment. Just “sin no more.”

Why the seeming leniency?

An injunction prohibiting Defendant from providing tax advice raises serious First Amendment concerns. The Government has a strong and valid interest in preventing fraud, and the First Amendment does not protect fraudulent statements. However, the Government has no interest in preventing true statements, and even liars and hucksters have First Amendment rights. Conceivably, Defendant could provide lawful and accurate tax advice, and the Court is unwilling (and probably unable) to prevent him from doing so.

I like the First Amendment. Without it I might have been moved to an oubliette underneath IRS Headquarters long ago. Yet the first in line in the bill of rights hasn’t stopped other judges from shutting down tax scheme promoters. For example, a federal judge enjoined tax protest guru Bill Benson from:

promoting, organizing, or selling (or helping others to promote, organize, or sell) any other tax shelter, plan, or arrangement that incites or assists others to attempt to violate the internal revenue laws or unlawfully evade the assessment or collection of their federal tax liabilities or unlawfully claim improper tax refunds.

Benson appealed on First Amendment grounds. The Seventh Circuit turned him down:

Benson purported to be selling a way to avoid tax liability; what he was actually selling was a way to increase tax and criminal liability for failing to pay taxes. That is false advertising, which may be banned consistent with the First Amendment.

Some years back a Des Moines gentleman vigorously promoted Employee Stock Ownership Plans as a tax cure-all, which had a number of unfortunate consequences. The Eighth Circuit didn’t let the First Amendment get in the way from permanently enjoining him and his CPA practice “…from acting as a service provider to any ERISA plan.”

Perhaps there’s something in ERISA that overrides the First Amendment the same way “ERISA preemption” keeps states from regulating many features of pension plans. Maybe the Eighth Circuit was wrong. But if the Kansas City judge’s opinion gets it right, you can get away with a lot in tax practice before you are drummed out altogether.

So You’re a CPA Thinking About Law School

We try to encourage you to think about your careers here at GC every once in awhile; present you with some options or ideas that maybe you haven’t considered before. We’ve covered several credentials out there that you can obtain and we’ve also touched on the pros and cons of the PhD.

But this time we’re going to get really crazy and give you the lowdown on an idea that we know many of you have had (including your humble editor) and that is the consideration of going to – gasp – law school.

For whatever insane reason, you can’t shake the idea of committing three years of your life and borrowing tens of thousands of dollars to live on PB&J, ramen noodles and frozen pizzas. Oh and of course there’s studying, tests and everything else that comes with returning to school.

But think about the benefits; you’ve got the CPA and if you were to get the JD, maybe you’ll top it off with an LLM and it’ll be smartest thing you’ve ever done. Think about the money! The prestige! The hot lawyers that you will bed and wed! It will all be worth it, right?


Well, maybe? If you spend even a little bit of time reading our sister site Above the Law, you might get the impression that the last thing you should ever do is go to law school. There’s an ncertain job market out there. You may end up with a huge debt load that can take a lifetime to pay back. And we’ve been told by a fair amount of our lawyers simply, “It’s just not worth it.”

Considering all that, we wanted to get some first-hand perspective, so we put the feelers out to a few CPAs turned lawyers to get an idea of their experience so those of you considering law school can make a more informed decision.

We spoke to three CPAs turned attorneys, Eric Gullotta who has his own practice in Sonoma, CA, Steve Farrar of Smith Moore Leatherwood in Greenville, SC and Timothy Gagnon who has in own practice in Needham, MA.

Messrs Gullotta and Gagnon both specialize in estate planning and taxation while Mr Farrar is a litigator who defends lawyers and accountants in malpractice lawsuits.

The three men agreed that their decision to go back to law school was worth it but that the process is certainly a challenge, “It was a tough three years. Probably the hardest thing is getting re-oriented with being a student after being out for awhile,” Mr Gagnon said.

Motivation and Benefits
Gullotta and Gagnon both believe that the biggest benefit that they’ve enjoyed by obtaining the law degree is that clients recognize the value that a background of a CPA can add to providing legal services. “The amount of respect and trust that clients put in you when you are both a lawyer and a CPA is really unbelievable,” Mr Gullotta told GC. “Being able to see the tax effects of legal transactions is really amazing and you can really bring value to your clients when you are able to negotiate or structure deals with tax effects in mind.”

Steve Farrar had a very different thought process before he returned to school. He went back because he was interested in being a trial lawyer, “I went back to law school with the intent to try cases,” he told us. While he was interviewing, most firms wanted him to consider working in a more transactional capacity but he found a firm that was willing to let him work in litigation and it turned out to be a perfect fit, “I’ve been ecstatic. While you might hear stories about people being burned out, I enjoy every minute of it.” And the biggest benefit for him? “This is going to sound hokie when I say it but I enjoy the theatrical chess match of going to trial.”

Back to School
But before getting to all the benefits of CPA/lawyer superstardom, there is the little matter of going to law school. While many lawyers we’ve talked to have said that the law school you attend is everything, it really depends on what you’re looking to accomplish with the degree. As Eric Gullotta told us, “it’s important to know what you what to do. If you want to work in [a large city], you’ll have to go to a reputable law school. If you want to practice locally, hang the shingle out, then you can go to slightly less prestigious school that is more practical for your situation.”

And being a CPA could possibly put you at an advantage when applying to law schools, “The interesting thing is that because you have experience and have a CPA, it can help you get into some of the better law schools,” Tim Gagnon said. “They’re looking to diversify their class, age, experience and you could bring something that diversifies the class that they can’t get out of somebody that just got out of undergrad.”

Drawbacks
But there’s got to be drawbacks right? Besides all the lawyer jokes, Steve Farrar mentioned losing flexibility in his schedule, “The best way I can explain it is that I have multiple busy seasons but I never know when they’re coming.” For Tim Gagnon, it sheer volume of continuing to keep up-to-date on the changing rules, “It’s hard enough to keep up on one but you put the two together and you really have a lot of information to cover.”

Oh, and then there’s the practical (and possibly more important) stuff, “Higher malpractice insurance,” according to Eric Gullotta.

So, are your aspirations for law school a good idea? Hard to say. Knowing what you want to do with the degree seems to be the key to making a decision. If you are thinking that a law degree will be the solution to your self-perceived lackluster career to date, you could find yourself very disappointed.

However, if this is a career that you truly want then it sounds like there isn’t any shortage of success stories. Choose wisely.