Masochism expressed through higher-level law degree, or good idea?
May 6, 2009 12:30 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of returning to school for an LLM in taxation, and am looking for advice, experience, pros, cons, etc.

In terms of my background, I have a BA from NYU, a JD from Fordham and was admitted to the bar in New York in 2007. I practice in a very specialized, unique area dealing with tax, insurance, alternative dispute resolution, etc. I am very young within my field compared to colleagues, and somewhat of a unique player - I could see myself rising to the top, forging my own path and having a lot of career flexibility.

So, I want an LLM to develop the expertise in taxation that law school did not provide, to increase my flexibility, the likelihood that i can qualify as an expert for tax testimony, and perhaps pursue writing and academic work within the field.

The cons are, I already have $100k of educational debt and would intend on continuing to work full time while in school (though I work exclusively from home). I would also like to consider international tax expertise, and whether this is something I might pursue abroad, if it were worthwhile (I would be able to continue to work while doing so).

Comments? Thoughts? Pros? Cons? Yes? No? Where? When? Why? Is this a waste of time and money to pursue or does it seem to fit well with my life/career goals? Did your LLM change your life?
posted by bunnycup to Education (6 answers total)
Best answer: I've heard from other practitioners that it is a pretty good bet. I lived with a guy getting his tax LLM from Georgetown and it was pretty clear there was money in it. Plus downturns only help business.

As for being a unique player in this game, there's always somebody better, but it is a great way to forge your own way.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:39 PM on May 6, 2009

Many LL.M. programs are actually full-time--especially at programs prestigious enough to be worth any attention from someone with your resume--and classes are usually during daylight hours. Unless you're self-employed, and even if you are, doing an LL.M. usually means at least taking a sabbatical from your job. Employers may or may not be willing to deal with this.

Are you currently employed? Because if you are, now is not a good time to be leaving a law job for more education unless you just got laid off.

Is there a job you want that you can't currently get that having an LL.M. in tax would improve your chances? If not, why blow $35-50k on a degree which won't necessarily improve your income all that much? Unless you want to work for an accounting or auditing firm--and heaven only knows whether or not they're hiring these days--I can't see an LL.M. of this sort guaranteeing you any kind of job.

You're a practicing lawyer, presumably in New York City. You should have an excellent picture of just how bad things are right now. Firms are laying people off, cutting salaries, pushing back start dates, and rescinding offers. And you're talking about walking away from a position for more school?!

The question presents itself: "Are you completely insane?"
posted by valkyryn at 12:45 PM on May 6, 2009

Response by poster: Let me clarify that my current employer is encouraging me to pursue the LLM and the intention would be that I remain with the same firm throughout, with the end result of increasing my value to them.
posted by bunnycup at 12:50 PM on May 6, 2009

Best answer: There's a thread on this subject right now on ATL. Everyone there's overly bitchy, so take what they say how ever you will. Most people seem to say an LLM in tax is worthwhile, but any other LLM is worthless. Take a look.
posted by Arbac at 1:00 PM on May 6, 2009

Both my dad and my grandfather have LLMs in taxation, and it is my understanding that it is a significant benefit. (For comparison, my mother does the same kind of law, trusts and estates, but she does not have an LLM. Though she is perhaps the attorney most in demand at the firm, my father's hourly rate is higher than hers, and the LLM is one reason for that. Another reason is my father's additional specialty in agricultural law.)
posted by ocherdraco at 1:22 PM on May 6, 2009

If it's something your employer wants you to do, then absolutely yes. Any time an employer, legal or otherwise, wants you to get more education it's usually a good idea. Especially if they'll pay for it. You looked into that?
posted by valkyryn at 3:35 AM on May 7, 2009

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