Law School Discussion

Getting a CPA license after law school

Getting a CPA license after law school
« on: May 15, 2007, 01:40:58 PM »
I was wondering if anyone out is planning on taking the CPA exams after law school. What are the benefits/drawbacks? It seems to me that it is not very common for someone to have both a JD and CPA. I'm a rising 2L right now at GW and thinking about working for the SEC in the future. I'm also considering working for one of the Big 4 accounting firms later on as a tax attorney. Anybody going this route?

I'll also add that I do not have a business background except for the business minor I almost finished. My degree is in political science and I was in the military after college. To qualify for the exams, I understand all I would need to do is take 4 accounting classes. Any drawbacks to this?

Re: Getting a CPA license after law school
« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2007, 03:18:27 PM »
My tax attorney is also a CPA. He's handled all of the corporate organization and tax issues for the business my husband and I own. Because we're an LLC, he's also done all of our personal taxes as well. He  literally has hundreds of clients, and is solo practitioner, and is cleaning up because he is full service. So based on my own limited experience, it appears to have worked out well for at least one lawyer. :-)

Re: Getting a CPA license after law school
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2007, 04:37:46 PM »
The ones that have both likely got the CPA first.  Speaking with one attorney from a large national firm, he mentioned that a CPA wouldn't have gotten him anywhere that his JD (tax emphasis, or maybe it was na LLM) didn't already.

cwc

Re: Getting a CPA license after law school
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2007, 05:22:43 PM »
Most states require a significant amount of coursework to sit for the CPA (i.e 30 hours in accounting plus some business courses).  Some states even require a degree in accounting, whether BA/BS or MA.  So, as krisace said, most attorneys probably have their CPA first, since quite a bit of additional coursework would be necessary to later acquire the CPA.   

Gwiz

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Re: Getting a CPA license after law school
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2007, 07:44:04 AM »
I'm a licenced Real Estate Agent in PA.  A J.D. satifies the education requirement for a Broker licence but you still need to take the Real Estate Bokers Exam to be licenced, and fulfill the C.E. reqirements.

You need to be a CPA in order to hold yourself out as a Public Accountatnt in PA.  You can do tax and accounting assistance and consulting without it but don't tell people your a public accountant or anything where they can infer that you are.  Ex: An independant accountant.  Tax and accounting work done as an employee don't apply

As an attorney you can represent your clients in real estate transactions that relate to your regular attorney/client relkationship.  You can not, however, facilitate real estate transactions as a course of business without a licence.  I assume its the same for accounting services.

I'm keeping my R.E. licence active while in school to fulfill the time requirement as a Real Estate salesperson Licencee.  Once I graduate I will have my Broker licence.

To answer your question at last, it depends on what your intent is.  How are you going to run your practice.

Re: Getting a CPA license after law school
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2007, 09:51:06 AM »
Thanks for all the responses.

I'm not intending to set up my own practice, but rather to be well rounded in a variety of areas. I really want to be an SEC attorney, but I am also considering the tax attorney route at a Big 4.  My wife is a tax accountant at a Fortune 300 company, and what she has learned from her co-workers is that Big 4 really likes the JD/CPA combo. The CPA is apparently preferred over the LLM because the CPA is much more broad (it covers finance in addition to tax). You don't even need the license necessarily - just the fact that you passed the exams apparently does wonders for your salary and career opportunities when you also have a JD. Also, if you aren't getting the license right away, you can take any of the state exams. Some have less stringent course requirements. New Hampshire, I believe, only requires 12 credits in accounting in addition to the 150 hour basic requirement.  So I was thinking of taking those classes after I pass the bar (or maybe auditing them at my school while in law school) and then studying for 6 months and taking the CPA exams.

All this is a lot of work, but my thinking is that in this competitive environment with way too many young lawyers, this is a good way to set yourself apart. It seems like there aren't many people who have gone this route yet, so less competition. Because it is so much less common, you really stand out. I'm looking eventually to be on a Board of Directors for a company some day, and was thinking this would be a great way to get on that track (especially after spending time at the SEC or Big 4).

In any case, just something to think about.


Re: Getting a CPA license after law school
« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2007, 10:29:34 AM »
If you want to go work for the SEC you need to make yourself as attractive in their eyes as possible as so many people covet those jobs.  The best route, and I've said this before, is to go work for a name brand firm - a national or global firm - doing corporate/securities work, so that when you apply the SEC takes notice.

Re: Getting a CPA license after law school
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2007, 05:40:14 PM »
Thanks for all the responses.

I'm not intending to set up my own practice, but rather to be well rounded in a variety of areas. I really want to be an SEC attorney, but I am also considering the tax attorney route at a Big 4.  My wife is a tax accountant at a Fortune 300 company, and what she has learned from her co-workers is that Big 4 really likes the JD/CPA combo. The CPA is apparently preferred over the LLM because the CPA is much more broad (it covers finance in addition to tax). You don't even need the license necessarily - just the fact that you passed the exams apparently does wonders for your salary and career opportunities when you also have a JD. Also, if you aren't getting the license right away, you can take any of the state exams. Some have less stringent course requirements. New Hampshire, I believe, only requires 12 credits in accounting in addition to the 150 hour basic requirement.  So I was thinking of taking those classes after I pass the bar (or maybe auditing them at my school while in law school) and then studying for 6 months and taking the CPA exams.

All this is a lot of work, but my thinking is that in this competitive environment with way too many young lawyers, this is a good way to set yourself apart. It seems like there aren't many people who have gone this route yet, so less competition. Because it is so much less common, you really stand out. I'm looking eventually to be on a Board of Directors for a company some day, and was thinking this would be a great way to get on that track (especially after spending time at the SEC or Big 4).

In any case, just something to think about.



It does look like New Hampshire's requirements to sit are not as great as some other states.  You don't need 150 hours, but in addition to the 12 hours of accounting you need 12 hours of other business courses.  Good luck if it is the route you decide to take. 

well eggy

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Re: Getting a CPA license after law school
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2007, 06:57:47 PM »
I'm a CPA who's going to law school.

Getting your CPA after law school is difficult, b/c you'd need add'l business and accounting coursework, which I assume you don't have.

You may not sit for the exam if you do not have the required coursework.

If you pass the exam, you may as well get a license.  They are essentially one and the same thing; only difference is the $25-ish license fee (depends on state).

Continuing ed. can count for both Bar and CPA requirements.

Working for the Big 4 is not all it's cracked up to be...like big law without the money.  Been there, done that.

Hope these bits help.


Re: Getting a CPA license after law school
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2007, 07:51:17 PM »
Squarre - Thanks for the info and the well wishes. I'm in a good position with the business classes because I almost finished a business minor during undergrad. My major was international studies, and I was also in ROTC. With the time commitment I had to the military during the school year, I dropped the business minor in my last semester.  Luckily, though, I've got the 12 hours. :) 

Well eggy - Thanks for your info too. I hear you about the Big 4. I hear the auditors especially get worked over. I was thinking though that it wouldn't be too difficult to get a job with them once I have the JD/CPA. Moreover, their prestige and brand name would really open up opportunities at companies down the road. In any case, the JD/CPA combination seems to open up a lot of unique opportunities.

As far as the SEC goes, I know it would be difficult to get on. I want to be an SEC prosecutor, specifically. In case I don't make it, it seems like the JD/CPA would be very handy to have. I'm pretty sure I don't want to work at a law firm. That's not to say I regret law school - on the contrary, I love it.  I've just got a strong business streak in me that won't go away. I can see how the law degree is going to be a very powerful asset in the future no matter what I do.

Just want to quickly say too that I don't advocate people going to law school just because "it keeps your options open".  I'm lucky in that I didn't have to take out huge debt to do it, so I realize that considering these nontraditional routes may not be possible for everyone, at least not right away.  As Well Eggy mentioned, the pay isn't going to be the same, at least at first.  But I'll also say too that most associates leaving BigLaw have to take a pay cut because goverment, law schools, and corporations can't usually afford those big salaries/bonuses.  That's something I think a lot of people don't think about when they see the 1st year associate salary.  With so much competition in this field, I'm thinking it's important to hedge your bets and not chase the same thing everyone else is chasing.

Thanks again for everyone's insights.