TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

WSJ: Will a Tax LL.M. Cleanse a 4th Tier, Bottom of the Class J.D.?

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog picks up on my post yesterday, Will a Tax LL.M. Cleanse a 4th Tier, Bottom of the Class J.D.?:

Let us say that the title to the post is not our own — it’s the verbatim title of a nice post by University of Cincinnati Law School tax professor Paul Caron over at the TaxProf Blog. (We wrestled with our own title, but ultimately realized we couldn’t come close to Caron’s punchy, succinct gem.)

In the post, Caron tackles something that we’d imagine a lot of current law students or out-of-work young lawyers have at least given a passing thought to in recent months: how about an advanced degree in tax? (Many schools offer LL.Ms — masters degrees in tax — which essentially add on one extra year of coursework after the JD.) If I aced a one-year program, the thinking might go, would I have a better shot of landing at a big law firm — or landing in the tax department of the same law firm that laid me off?  ...

Coincidentally, it seems, Caron and colleagues last week published this paper about the value of LL.M. degrees.

Write Caron and Loyola Law School professors Jennifer Kowal and Katherine Pratt:

Here we distinguish between two different types of prospective Tax LLM students: (1) prospective Tax LLM students who have a genuine interest in and aptitude for tax and want to develop additional tax expertise to improve their chances of being hired for a tax position to which they aspire; and (2) prospective Tax LLM students who do not have a particular interest in and aptitude for tax, but assume that a Tax LLM degree from a prestigious Tax LLM program will rehabilitate less-than-stellar JD credentials and improve their chance of obtaining a job at an elite, big firm.

You can see where this is going, can’t you LBers? The trio continues:

A prospective Tax LLM student who is not genuinely interested in tax is not likely to do well in Tax LLM classes. In addition, the potential resume boost from successful completion of a Tax LLM degree is greatest when applying for tax-specific positions.

The bottom line seems to be that if you have an aptitude for tax and want to practice tax — which really isn’t for everyone — go for it. Otherwise, save your money. LBers, any further advice on this?

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Well maybe its me and my age but what is an example of a fourth tier law school? I mean I obviously have heard of first and second tier but in my mind I never realized that we are splitting hairs even further than that. By chance are there any other tiers or is forth the lowest they go? Also assuming one was a instructor e.g. lecturer or professor at this bottom rung - forth tier school - what does that say for the instructor?

Posted by: Clinton | Mar 31, 2010 11:23:54 AM