career paths in the big-4 for tax lawyers

I'm occasionally asked by law students about my career path, so I thought I'd write a blog post summarizing my usual answer to them.

I have no finance or accounting background.  I was a political science major, and in law school I wasn't sure what type of lawyer I wanted to be.  In my 3L on campus interviews, I interviewed with two of the then Big-5 (now Big-4) accounting firms.  I didn't know they had tax departments that hired lawyers.  Both made me an offer, and I went with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).  In my 3L I took two tax classes: Federal Personal Income Tax and High Tech Tax Issues.

Following the bar exam I started at PwC in the federal tax group.  I would have preferred international tax, but at that time, PwC started everyone in federal tax.  I was in that group for two years, doing mostly tax returns and tax provision calculations.  It was not what I envisioned my long-term career to be.  At the end of my second year, I was promoted to senior associate, and left PwC to join the international tax group at KPMG.  Although I liked international tax better, and saw a long-term career in that field, I did not like KPMG.  To make a long story short, about three years later I ended up back at PwC as a manager in the international tax group.  I felt at home, and planned to stay there long-term.  

Five years later, I was promoted to Director, and a few months after that Google contacted me about an opportunity to be international tax counsel.  It was a tough choice to leave PwC, but companies like Google come around only once in a while, so I knew I had to take the chance.  No regrets.

My lack of a finance or accounting background did create for a steep learning curve, especially the first few years.  There has always been inertia within the firm against hiring people, even lawyers, who lack a finance or accounting background.  But lawyers who can demonstrate a solid commitment to tax (through classes they've taken, past work experience, etc.) can overcome that hurdle fairly easily.  During interviews, the firms will be particularly focused on the lack of accounting background, which can be overcome by demonstrating a strong interest in tax.

A few relevant links:

A blog post I wrote with career advice for starting at Big-4 firms. Some job interview tips for Big-4 firms. And a blog post I wrote about my decision to leave the Big-4 for industry.

Popular posts from this blog

power elite vs pluralist explanation models

big 4 vs. law firm comparison from an industry perspective

california bar exam primer