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Is an LLM in Taxation the Right Choice for You?

Pursuing a LLM in Taxation will get you here ... but is it the right choice for you?

An LLM, or Master of Laws, is an advanced degree that lawyers can earn after completing a JD. While the degree is popular with international students who want to gain some experience with the American legal system and perhaps practice law in the U.S., it’s also popular with lawyers who want to specialize in a particular area of law. While LLMs are available in a range of legal specialties like democratic governance, intellectual property law, and patent law, the traditional specialty has been tax law.

Many young lawyers aren’t sure whether they should pursue an LLM degree. But if you want to specialize in tax law, the LLM in Taxation is still the degree for you. If you didn’t attend a top law school, it can beef up your resume. It can help you transition to practicing in a different part of the country. If you aspire to teach law at the university level, you’ll need at least an LLM, if not a Ph.D., to land a tenure-track position.

Specialize in Tax Law

The number-one reason to get a master of laws degree is to become a tax attorney. Tax attorneys aren’t accountants; they help clients with legal issues surrounding the payment of local, state, and federal taxes. This can include everything from helping a couple avoid paying taxes on their assets when they split, to protecting the wrongfully convicted from having to pay income taxes on restitution money. It’s a highly specialized area of law, but you’ll have the chance to work on a diverse range of cases. An LLM in Taxation takes about a year to earn, and imparts practical experience in addition to specialized legal knowledge.

Make Your Resume More Impressive

If you didn’t manage to get into a top law school, an LLM offers you the chance the put something more impressive than your regional or state university on your resume. That’s because it’s often easier to get into an LLM program than a JD program, because most American lawyers don’t see the need to earn an LLM. They just get their JDs and go straight into practice. So the school that wouldn’t accept you into its JD program will be much more likely to accept you into its LLM program, and you’ll be able to prove that you can keep up with students at a nationally-ranked program.

Move Your Practice to a Different Part of the Country

Let’s say you’ve decided that you don’t want to hang around and practice law in the same part of the country where you got your JD. That’s fine, but it can be hard to convince a law firm to hire an attorney from another state or region; they’ll be concerned that you’ll ultimately decide not to relocate or that you will, only to depart again in a few years.

Earning an LLM in the region to which you’d like to relocate can eliminate these concerns, since by the time you apply for jobs, you’ll already be living in the area. An LLM from a school that’s well-respected in your region of choice can also improve your job prospects in that region.

Teach Law Yourself

If you want to become a professor of law, you’re going to need more years of education than just a JD can provide. You’ll need at least an LLM to compete for tenure-track faculty positions in university law programs. Many tenure-track positions require candidates to have a PhD, but you’ll need to earn an LLM before you can qualify for a Ph.D. program.

Competition for adjunct teaching positions in law schools isn’t as fierce as it is for tenure-track positions, but don’t think you can land an adjunct position with just a JD. You’ll still need an LLM to qualify for most of these positions, even if they don’t offer tenure.

If you want to become a tax attorney, an LLM in Taxation can get you there. It’ll give you the specialized knowledge of tax law necessary to help clients will all kinds of taxation-related legal issues. However, that’s not the only reason you might want to consider an LLM. Whether you want to relocate, improve your job prospects, or land a teaching job, and LLM can help you achieve your law career goals.

Just How Lucrative is a Law Degree These Days?

funny lawyer graphic
With lawyers popularized in hit television shows (such as Boston Legal, Damages, and Rake), lawyers being amongst the highest paid professions across the globe, and the prestige that comes with helping others, it is no shock that there has been a large increase of those going to law school. There are so many people going to law school, that some are worrying that a law degree is no longer lucrative. In Australia, the number of students that have graduated from law school, in the last decade, is up almost 330%. In America, a report was recently published by the National Association for Law Placement, and their statistics showed that only 64.4 percent of graduates were working in a job that required the passage of the Bar Exam. This isn’t to say that lawyers across the board aren’t doing well; you just may want to focus on international law and plan to move once you graduate.

Highest Salaries

When looking at countries with the highest salaries, you might be surprised to learn which countries are paying their lawyers the most. Coming in at number one, China. China not only the country with the highest salary—the average salary for a lawyer being $146,945 (in USD)—but also has a low cost of living. Taking into account the cost of living, the weighted annual salary, in USD, is $222,165. Coming in second, third and fourth place—Germany, France, and United Arab Emirates; with weighted salaries, in USD, of $126,272, $125,330, and $123,626, respectively.

Lucrative Equity

Most define lucrative as “producing a great deal of profit.” That being said, profits do not always translate directly into money. If a person you work with became ill, and as a result you got to go on your dream vacation, would you not “profit from their misfortune?” In some scenarios, working as lawyer provides you an opportunity to collect favors from friends and family. Sometimes, a price cannot be put on owed favors. Additionally, there has to be something said for earning and storing up good karma.

Personal Growth and Knowledge

It is very difficult to put a price on the ability to handle problems for yourself. I’ve used a lawyer before, and he charged me $300 an hour. Having knowledge of the law would have saved me a fortune. Think about it—you’d never have to pay for a speeding ticket, ever! If you want to try to figure out some of these legal wiles yourself, Legal Vision is a great place to start. You never know when a little bit of light reading will get you out of a bind. The site also shows a new evolution to the industry – a move away from the classic legal office into online legal services, which is an expanding and profitable niche service.

The Math—All about the Dollars and Cents

The math does not lie. When it comes down to it, yes…having a law degree is very lucrative. A study done by the American Bar Association, says that the average public law school costs $16,800/yr and that the average private law school cost $34,000/yr. Even if you decide to go private school route, and spend $102,000 on your law school, you will still come out well ahead of everyone else. The additional $102,000, divided over the length of your career, will seem like nothing as you receive each paycheck. Big institutions now offer affordable online MBL programs, so it’s easier to graduate while you’re busy with a full-time job to support your studies.

Focusing on American information, the average annual salary for a lawyer is $130,880. The average salary for someone with a doctorate is $81,400, an advanced degree is $72,824, and the average American salary is well below these numbers. The median household income, of $51,017, does not come close to any of those numbers. So, yes, it is safe to say that a law degree is very lucrative.

How to get into law school

If you are pondering on how to get into law school, follow the steps below and soon you'll be studying in a library like this one at Notre Dame!

Choosing a path of study these days in something of a harrowing prospect, as many industries have started down a path of relentless outsourcing and automation, causing the loss of jobs in many of these fields. It’s hard to justify laying out serious cash to commit to a specific degree, when it is possible that there might not be many open positions waiting for you after the completion of your studies.

The question, and rightfully so, has become this: which areas offer the best prospect of stable employment, both in terms of job security and open positions at any given time?

These days, employment for solicitor jobs has been one of the fields that has remained steady as other industries has declined. The world will always need dedicated and caring individuals to protect people from travesties of justice, so if adding value to society while enjoying a handsome salary are both things that are important to you, then a career in law is something that you should seriously consider.

In order to stand in the courtroom and represent your clients with the passion you imagine during your vivid daydreams, you’ll need to get into a decent law school first. The process behind how to get into law school is a bit more involved than what it takes to merely get into university, so pay close attention to the following steps, and before long, you’ll be learning from some of the brightest legal minds in the world on your way to becoming a superstar solicitor.

1) Pick a field of study that emphasizes reading and the development of critical thinking skills

Don’t let those knocking Bachelor of Arts degrees dissuade you from studying it, as many of the programs essential to success in law hail from this end of the academic spectrum. Think about what kind of law you wish to practice, and allow this to influence your choice of major. Those looking to become a public defender might want to major in sociology, while those thinking about corporate law may want to major in economics or business.

All students angling to get into law school should at least take a few courses in philosophy and journalism, as these subject areas will school you in the art of critical thinking and asking pointed questions, both of which are essential to being an excellent solicitor.

2) Register with the LSAC, prepare for and take the LSAT

The LSAC is the organization that administers the LSAT examination, which is a test that you must take before applying to any law school. Once you have created an account with them, you will receive reminders about LSAT examination times and places, and you will have access to LSAT prep materials that are recommended for those taking the test.

3) Search for a law school that meets your needs

So you aced your LSAT… congratulations! Now for the final step, which is a crucial one. Law school is not cheap by any means, and barring winning the birth lottery by having the backing of wealthy parents, or snagging a full ride scholarship, you’ll likely be taking out a hefty loan that will take many years to pay back.

Be sure the school you choose offers the variant of law you wish to practice, at a price that is reasonable for the education that you will be receiving. While some areas of the law will offered by most schools, some of them will be renowned in the country or the world for certain sub-disciplines.

Get exemplary reference letters from mentors and professors that will bolster your case, and apply as early as January to give yourself the best possible chance of acceptance. The latter will allow you to apply to multiple schools with ease without rushing, giving your application the polished look that will give you the edge over your equally motivated competition.