March 25, 2019 at 8:58 pm #2282235
I work in the billing department of a midsize (100 or so attorneys) law firm in Los Angeles. I'm studying for the CPA exam. Many of the lawyers work with financial law, estate planning, international investing, etc. Basically there's a lot of overlap between accounting and law there and several of the attorneys are also CPA's. I was wondering, if I were to pass the CPA exam, do you think its reasonable that I might be able to transfer from the billing department into some sort of position within the actual legal working field? If you do, any suggestions on how to go about doing so? The only one I can think of is befriending some of the attorney CPA's so they can see and know that I have some intelligence.
Thank youMarch 26, 2019 at 8:38 am #2282511
The potential is there, but the lack of a law degree will ultimately hold you back from climbing the ranks in a law firm.
Non-attorneys cannot make partner in a law firm, similar to non-CPAs cannot have equity in CPA firms (depending on state).
I see no reason not to try for it. Befriending one of the CPAs seems the most logical move.March 26, 2019 at 6:50 pm #2283771
Have you consider becoming a tax attorney?
This way you get to practice law but you'll be dealing mostly with the tax code.
I believe that you will also have to go to law school and also pass the BAR exam too.
I'm not sure if you may want to go that route since it will be a lot more schooling and more tests.March 27, 2019 at 12:59 pm #2285793
Its crossed my mind. But its honestly to much extra work. One day I might live in another country amd I was just thinking with all the international work done here it might facilitate that.April 7, 2019 at 6:19 pm #2313000
lol good luck..attorneys are mostly arrogant A holes..they dont view you on your level..even though most arent as bright as they think they are..the only way you will work in the legal side is if you are an attorney yourself.
I worked for a real estate/ tax attorneyApril 11, 2019 at 5:29 pm #2323146
No, there is literally zero chance you will be allowed to do legal work for several reasons.
First, it's against ethics rules for someone who isn't licensed to practice law. You may be able to do some prep work (think paralegal work or CPA work) but it will be compensated accordingly.
Second, you don't have the necessary skills and expertise. I don't think you appreciate how different the real world law issues are from the superficial summaries included in REG or BEC.
You may be able to secure a position that is not directly related to law practice if the firm is looking to hire a CPA, e.g., for their tax law team, but those are rare and you're likely better of with a Big4 in this case.April 11, 2019 at 7:14 pm #2323329
Thanks Son, honestly I'd rather be on the back end, like on their tax law team or doing prep work, than being directly practicing law. Any ideas for how to go down that course? Also, any idea of the compensation I could reasonably expect? Attorneys there average 200k/year and most staff (secretaries, etc) seem to be about 75k a year. Lastly, any idea what kind of hours one could expect in the back end? Thanks to all of you who've responded. I really appreciate it.April 12, 2019 at 6:25 am #2324223
Do you already having anyone in the office doing this? If so, then you might ask for some insight from those people. If not, they probably don't have any need for that role.April 12, 2019 at 6:59 am #2324250
I would assume that a CPA would be valuable in any cases that need forensic accountants.
Also, there is some overlap between law and Accounting. A lot. However, if not an in-house forensics expert, you will most likely be billed as a paralegal.
In most law firms, you are treated as second class citizens if you don't have ESQ to the right of your name. As a former paralegal (who did most of their work), I know. It's because you can't sign off on anything even though they rely heavily on you.May 7, 2019 at 2:52 pm #2385390
Stibbs, apologies as I'm not that frequently on this forum so my response is much delayed.
Thanks Son, honestly I'd rather be on the back end, like on their tax law team or doing prep work, than being directly practicing law. Any ideas for how to go down that course?
Meaning, their internal tax team doing tax returns for the firm partners and the partnership itself and whatnot? If so, it will be like any other in-house position, i.e., you will likely need to apply for an opening on the internal tax team. Again, no offense but I think there's a slim chance they have a lot of CPA-type work as those can be outsourced to CPA firms for much cheaper so law firms don't get a ton of those projects. Also, if you already have lawyers who are also CPAs they are likely willing and able to do that work already unless again you work in a paraprofessional position to help prep their work.
Then, the second-class citizen thing others have mentioned comes to mind.. Unfortunately you will be treated as a cost to the firm and not as an asset in most cases.
Also, any idea of the compensation I could reasonably expect? Attorneys there average 200k/year and most staff (secretaries, etc) seem to be about 75k a year.
Sorry, you probably won't be happy to hear this but 200k/year is realistically out of the range of possibility for a non-attorney working for a law firm. They can hire a senior manager or sometimes even director-level professional from a Big4 firm for that, who will bring 7-10 years of experience. I think 75k may be low for someone with a CPA and a couple years of experience but even breaking 100k may be tough (although not impossible especially if you're in an expensive market). Unless you bring in revenue (work in client-facing role) or have years and years of experience and can lead the whole tax team, they won't pay you anywhere near 200k.
Lastly, any idea what kind of hours one could expect in the back end?
Depending on the client, I saw anywhere between 40-60 hours, with 50 (unsurprisingly) being the average. If you work back office weekends and evenings are usually free from work unless you work with a badly organized firm or a very demanding boss. There may be peaks and valleys, e.g., quarter end and tax return seasons might be busier than usual depending on what exactly you do.
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