December 8, 2011 - Phil Hodgen

Your primary purpose as a tax lawyer


This is another post for young tax lawyers.  Think of it as a virtual mentoring.  I was (and continue to be) lucky in knowing people who mentor me.  In fact, as I write this I have scheduled a visit with a friend of mine — I need his advice. Many young tax lawyers do not have that opportunity.

If you want to get all metaphysical ‘n stuff, ask yourself why you are here, as a tax lawyer?  What’s your primary purpose?  The answer, I think, includes:

  • Remove complexity from your clients’ lives and give them clarity in return.  Tax law is the poster child for unnecessary complexity.  It is difficult for a trained lawyer or accountant to understand.  For civilians, it is impossible.  (I count politicians in the group of people who have no f-ing clue about the tax laws they write.)
  • Take uncertainty away from your clients and give them direction.  There are usually a dozen ways to get something done.  Clients don’t need “on the one hand, on the other hand” advice.  Point your finger and say “Arise and mount your steed!  We shall launch our Quest!  There are fierce dragons in our path, but we shall prevail because the Forces of Good are with us.”  Translation:  tell clients what will work.  Explain the risks.  Lead them. They are grown-ups and it is their money. They deserve no less.
  • Give new powers to your clients.  Clients want to accomplish things.  They want to expand their businesses.  Make investments.  Sell something.  Make a gift or plan for transfers on death.  They do not have the tools to bring their desires into reality.  They lack the power to do things.  That’s your job.  Your help will give them the ability to accomplish something important to them.  Not you.  Them.