Tax Lawyers, Should You Get a CPA License?

The ‘Accidental Tax Lawyer’ is not the name of a movie. It’s a title from a blog post about a lawyer thinking about going back to school to become a certified public accountant. But if it were a movie, it would be a mid-life, coming-of-age story because it speaks to all who wonder about that other road in life.

Only the road to becoming a CPA after law school is harder than doing it the other way around. At least, that’s the story from these bloggers:

Chicken or the Egg?

According to most on Top-Law-Schools.com, it is better to become a CPA first, work, and then go to law school. One commenter, who earned his CPA before his JD, echoed some truths on the forum.

Go work at an accounting firm for two years,” wrote user “theantiscalia.” “I did this, and law firms love it.”

At a time when law schools are struggling to attract students, deferring law school for another degree is a good strategy. Harvard Law School, for example, encourages deferred admissions for people to pursue other goals before stating law school.

“This program is allowing people to pursue their passions in ways that may not be available if they didn’t already have their pathway to law school set,” said Jessica Soban, associate dean of admissions and strategic initiatives.

Road Less Traveled

Pursuing a CPA after law school is a different story. According to a career blog at GoingConcern, it is a tough row to hoe.

“Can you work, go to school and maintain your sanity and/or shred of a social life that you have left?” Caleb Newquist wrote. “It’s not impossible but you’ll have a rough couple of years, to be sure.”

Quan Vuong, who earned his JD, LLM, and then a CPA, agrees. He said it took him eight months to prepare and take the CPA exam, but his wife encouraged and supported him.

“We both knew that this was only a temporary, supplemental part of our lives that had to be done until I passed the exam,” he said. “I think that once you come to that realization, it makes the process much more feasible.”

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