Associate Tax LawyerJune 25, 2012 - Phil HodgenRandom
We solve international tax problems for people. That means looking eye-to-eye at someone, saying “I can help you” and delivering on that promise. We need another lawyer to work with our team.
Success in this position means:
When you’re given a task because the problem has already been figured out, you get the task done.
When you’re given a problem, you figure out what the question is. Then you figure out the answer. We’re a team and we work together, but God allocated one brain in per body for a reason–you need to use yours and not make one of us do all of your thinking for you. On the other hand, if you’re the Lone Ranger, that’s not going to work.
The file knows what you did and why. So do the other members of the team. And (most importantly) our client knows, too.
You write well. That means simple prose and short words. Your reader understands what you’re saying and why, even when English is the third language that your reader learned.
You fit in. Frankly, we’re tax nerds and we like it. We’re a bit anal-retentive and enjoy the intellectual challenges of tax law while simultaneously mocking the artificial and ridiculous problems that it creates. We are relaxed, work hard, but above all we understand that we are on the planet once, so we had better enjoy what we’re doing and enjoy being with the people are around us.
Research. Law school exams and writing law review articles might give you the ability to do a lot of “on the one hand, on the other hand” analysis with hand-wavy conclusions. Our clients want answers. “Yes” and “no” are good answers. Another good answer is “I have identified the point at which the Internal Revenue Code goes off the rails. Here is what you can do, and here are the risks. I suggest X.” Have a conclusion. Offer a conclusion. Give some leadership.
Do. This will include creating trusts, partnerships, limited liability companies, and corporations, both in the United States and abroad, and setting up operating procedures to ensure tax compliance and easy operation for the clients. Since tax problems do not appear in a vacuum, it will also mean being involved–sometimes as the deal-runner, sometimes as a team member–in a transaction our client has decided to do.
Help other professionals. We work closely with and support our clients’ accountants, other lawyers, bankers, and in-house professionals. Help them do their jobs and help them look good. That’s our job. Yours, too.
Help the client. If you’re going to embarrass us when you talk to clients, you aren’t going to last here. In pretty short order you will be dealing directly with clients of a calibre that will surprise you. (Hint: I remember a July 4 party a couple of years ago where I introduced myself to a partner in a big downtown L.A. law firm. When he learned what I do and the type of clients we have, he had to carefully disguise his slack-jawed wonder. “You have those types of clients? In Pasadena?”) (This is Phil talking, in case you didn’t know). You will explain complicated stuff to clients. They should understand it.
Read, edit, write. Blogging, speaking, and writing about international tax topics are a big part of our lives. You will write. You will edit. Both are boring activities. Both make you smarter.
You are admitted to the California Bar, or are willing to take (and pass) the California bar exam.
An LL.M in taxation is definitely useful but not essential. An LL.M tells us that you have an academic background in a range of tax disciplines. This, we assume, gives you an intellectual foundation of some kind. But just as a driver’s license doesn’t make you a NASCAR driver, an LL.M doesn’t make you a killer tax lawyer. It can’t hurt, though.
A few years of experience working in a large law firm or accounting firm is mandatory. Most newly-admitted lawyers are of limited practical value, unfortunately. Who you are and what you’ve done is far more important than that J.D. degree. We care about what you can do. We guess about what you can do based on what you’ve done. That’s why we want experienced people–we have something to look at when we guess.
This job is in Pasadena, California. I love the internet as much as the next person, but there is no substitute for sitting around a table with a group of smart, smart people.
In theory some of the things we do do could be handled by remote team members, but we don’t know how to do that. Yet. Someday we will learn, but at this stage we are building the foundation. That means everyone in the room at the same time.
If you’re interested:
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include a cover letter and your resume. If we’re interested we will give you projects to work on from time to time. You will be paid as an independent contractor. This part might be done remotely; we can play this by ear. We’ll see how it goes: what you produce and how you fit in. This will continue until we–and you–decide it is a fit. Or not. Remember how I said we care about what you can do, and we judge this based on what you’ve done? The past predicts the future. The present is a better predictor.
There is no mystery here. Go look at 37Signals. We are following their method for finding and hiring the right people.