CPA Uses Tax LLM as Springboard to Big Four Partnership
When Sam Greenberg '10 (LLM '12) was working as a CPA after graduating from Berkeley, he noticed some of his colleagues – often the most intellectually curious, the most capable of wresting problems to the ground -- held degrees in tax law.
The same things that had provoked his childhood interest in science, and had steered him to majoring in economics – analytic methods, lots of rules, plenty of math – made him think that tax law might be for him. “Tax law was a way to combine those things and make a living,” he says.
Loyola’s strong reputation for both law school and its tax program drew him to Los Angeles, where he worked at law firm Latham & Watkins while getting his degrees at Loyola. “I have a tremendous respect for the faculty,” he says. “The adjunct faculty are especially impressive; they are all partners at major law firms and major accounting firms. I could take issues I was dealing with during the day, as an associate at Latham, to discuss in class.”
The most important thing he learned, he says, was to be “absolutely meticulous in analyzing an issue from top to bottom. It’s something you learn at a regular law school,” but it’s crucial for understanding statutes and regulations, the heart of tax law. “It gave me a massive leg up” when he started working in the field. “It gave me the tools to do the job.”
Greenberg also finds the training and the job itself intellectually stimulating. “If you love intricate puzzles, tax law is second to none. Or if you’re one of the weird folks who like to read the rule book and use it to your advantage.”
These days, it’s especially important for any kind of attorney to have a rigorous and forward-looking education. “Anybody practicing law today has to be ready for a really different legal landscape,” says Greenberg, who recently became a partner at the prestigious Ernst & Young. Digital technology, Big Data, and changing expectations of clients have sped a lot of things up and made many firms leaner; the way to survive is to be creative, “where it’s difficult for the machine to compete with you.”
A tax degree offers the kind of early expertise that helps a young lawyer negotiate this changing world. “The firm no longer has to train you,” he says. “If you come in and don’t have to mess around for a year or two to find out what you’re good at, you are infinitely more valuable.”