October 10, 2006
WSJ on IRS Recruitment of Law Students
Interesting article in today's Wall Street Journal: It's Taxing to Recruit Top Law Grads to IRS, But a New Push Betters Returns, by Robert Guy Matthews:
Donald Korb, chief counsel of the IRSe, sits in a high-back chair in a meeting room lined with law books and prepares to talk to a small gathering of Yale Law School students about tax shelters. But before delivering his lecture, he delivers a sales pitch -- for jobs at the IRS: Work a 40-hour week (more or less). Get into a courtroom within the first month. Choose the city where you work. "I can't say enough about the value to your career," he concludes, breathlessly. "And that's my commercial." It isn't subtle, and it seems to work. A couple of students reach for the informational folders and CDs stacked on a coffee table.
For decades, the IRS, employer of 1,500 lawyers, failed to draw freshly scrubbed graduates from the country's top law schools. It recruited in the spring, instead of the preceding fall when the private firms did. "All the good ones were gone by then," Mr. Korb says. When it did find promising candidates, it left many of them in limbo for months; private firms usually respond within weeks. And then there's the pay: about $65,000 to $70,000, depending on location, for a first-year lawyer at the IRS. That's half the starting rate at private firms.
It's no wonder few of the smartest young minds in tax law considered starting their careers at the IRS. As a result, the IRS frequently finds itself out-manned and out-maneuvered by corporations or rich individuals, who hire pricey private lawyers to craft and defend sophisticated schemes to dodge taxes.
Mr. Korb -- J.D., Case Western Reserve University School of Law; LL.M., Georgetown University Law Center -- is out to change that. He says a few early years at the IRS is a big boost to a tax lawyer's career. His message seems to be sinking in. A wave of new graduates from law schools at Yale, New York University and the University of Southern California begin work next month, the first stream of new lawyers from those top-tier schools to join the IRS in years. In all, the IRS has 1,500 applicants so far for the 50 spots it wants to fill over the next 12 months....
Mr. Korb is especially proud of the IRS's slick marketing campaign and recruiting material. The bright green-and-purple folders and CDs contain something only tax geeks may find appealing: A list of famous -- at least in tax circles -- IRS alumni, including Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Bulls; Pam Olson, a former Treasury Department official and now a partner at Skadden Arps; and Ronald Pearlman, a former Treasury Department and congressional tax official and now a Georgetown professor.
For more, see:
- Peter Lattman, WSJ Law Blog: IRS Tells Law Students: It's Hip to be Square
- Jeff Lipshaw, The Legal Profession Blog, "We Thought They'd Be Busy Filing Their Returns Until April 15"
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