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Tax Law Articling Positions

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Hello everyone. Just to give a bit of background, so you don't think I am a total weirdo; I am interested in tax law for a number of reasons. First, I was originally in the process of a career change to become a CPA (and eventually a CFA as well), but ultimately decided that law would be a better fit for me. However, I do have a huge interest in accounting/tax based law, and I learned that there is a lot of job growth in that field as well. I was just wondering if anyone had any knowledge of the relative exposure to tax Articling positions by school? My general assumption is that you would see the most exposure at the 'bay street' schools, like U of T and York, but I am not sure if this is true. I could not find anything out by researching it. 

 

Any information would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advanced. 

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Not quite sure what you mean by relative exposure to artilcing positions.

 

Most positions (especially those posted during the main recruitment) are publicly posted...you can apply to them from any school. 

 

Are you asking about where these firms prefer to hire from?

 

Canada doesn't have a hierarchy of schools like the United States, you'll get a good legal education at any school. You'll have the opportunity to take tax law at any school. Aside from Lakehead (which is too new) you'll find grads from all the Canadian schools at big firms and boutique tax firms across the country (i use "big" as relative to the local market). Note you will find more Ontario grads at firms in Toronto, and you're more likely to see Dal or UNB grads in Halifax. While it's beneficial to go to school in the province/area you want to work (it makes being available for recruitment and stuff easier), its definitely not a requirement. 

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Hello everyone. Just to give a bit of background, so you don't think I am a total weirdo; I am interested in tax law for a number of reasons. First, I was originally in the process of a career change to become a CPA (and eventually a CFA as well), but ultimately decided that law would be a better fit for me. However, I do have a huge interest in accounting/tax based law, and I learned that there is a lot of job growth in that field as well. I was just wondering if anyone had any knowledge of the relative exposure to tax Articling positions by school? My general assumption is that you would see the most exposure at the 'bay street' schools, like U of T and York, but I am not sure if this is true. I could not find anything out by researching it. 

 

Any information would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advanced. 

 

There are a fair number of tax lawyers floating around here, so we don't consider you to be a total weirdo.  Then again, most of us are freaks.

 

If you're interested in tax, you're going to want to look at what each school offers in terms of tax courses.  I expect all law schools offer some combination of baby tax, corporate tax and some estate planning courses, but bigger schools serving large business centers are likely to offer more specialized courses (international tax, tax workshops, etc.) so, without disparaging, say, UNB or UofM, but UofT or Osgoode are likely to be better choices.  If you're interested in tax law, you may want to look at a school that offers more tax courses (or not, you might be interested in tax litigation, in which case, hey, you'll pick up the specialized knowledge if and when you need it).  If you're interested in corporate tax (as opposed to, say, estate planning), you'll also want to look at schools that offer richer corporate/business law course offerings, because corporate tax lawyers are first and foremost excellent corporate lawyers (course, even if you're interested in estate planning, you'll still want to pick up a good knowledge of corporate law, since the sort of people who have estates worth planning own corporations).  Again, every law school in Canada will teach you everything you need to know about business law, but a place like Osgoode will offer a richer assortment of course (I have in mind, in particular, its M&A intensive course with Davies, that's a solid course (or so I'm told) that adds real value if you can get into it.  I'm sure some other schools offer similar programs, but not all.)  

 

Also think about the type of exposure you can get.  I know for a fact that places like Osgoode, Western and UofT bring it top practitioners to teach some of their courses.  Now, whether they're any good as professors or not, I couldn't tell you, but they at least give you some exposure to real life bay street tax lawyers, if that's your thing, and exposure to the sort of real world transactions that certain tax academics have only read about.  Somehow I doubt (but stand to be corrected) that the same caliber of people are teaching at Windsor or Lakehead, but wouldn't be surprised to see their BC or Alberta peers at UBC or Calgary.  

 

In terms of getting an articling position, get good grades and show an interest in tax (but make sure you get good grades - tax lawyers like to think of themselves as elites of business law, and smarts are a deal breaker) and you'll be a hot commodity. 

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Not quite sure what you mean by relative exposure to artilcing positions.

 

Most positions (especially those posted during the main recruitment) are publicly posted...you can apply to them from any school. 

 

Are you asking about where these firms prefer to hire from?

 

Canada doesn't have a hierarchy of schools like the United States, you'll get a good legal education at any school. You'll have the opportunity to take tax law at any school. Aside from Lakehead (which is too new) you'll find grads from all the Canadian schools at big firms and boutique tax firms across the country (i use "big" as relative to the local market). Note you will find more Ontario grads at firms in Toronto, and you're more likely to see Dal or UNB grads in Halifax. While it's beneficial to go to school in the province/area you want to work (it makes being available for recruitment and stuff easier), its definitely not a requirement. 

 

 

Thanks for replying, I really appreciate it. I'm aware that they are publicly posted, but I was referring to more of the relationships that they have. What your post is telling me, which is what a lot of my research has been saying, is that generally (everything else being equal) it is more advantageous to be the big fish in the small pond. Am I interpreting this correct? My logic is that if I went and gave law school my all, I think best case scenario I may be able to be in the top 10% of the class in one of the less competitive schools, while I may only be in the top 30-40% at a school like U of T.  I know this is a question only transfer students could answer, but it is reasonable to suggest that the same amount of work for someone at say a school of U of S's calibre that would result in the top 10 percent, would equate to roughly the top 40% of U of T? Also, is it reasonable to assume that getting top 10% at U of S (assuming say an A- average) would be more competitive than say top 40% at U of T (assuming a B average) when applying for jobs? Logically, this would suggest that unless you are confident that you can be in the top 10% of U of T, you are better off going to a less competitive school?

 

The book 'Underdogs' by Malcom Gladwell is what got me thinking about this, but I would love to hear from people that are in law school already. 

 

I was born in Scotland, but have also lived in England, the US, and Canada; within Canada, I have lived in BC, AB, and as of next week, Saskatchewan (GF starting first year law). Do you think my somewhat transient lifestyle would be seen as a benefit to applying for articling positions in a completely different city (as it would show that I can handle change, and don't mind moving where they want me)?

 

I'm sorry, you answered my question, and I gave you five more. I won't be offended if nobody answers :).

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There are a fair number of tax lawyers floating around here, so we don't consider you to be a total weirdo.  Then again, most of us are freaks.

 

If you're interested in tax, you're going to want to look at what each school offers in terms of tax courses.  I expect all law schools offer some combination of baby tax, corporate tax and some estate planning courses, but bigger schools serving large business centers are likely to offer more specialized courses (international tax, tax workshops, etc.) so, without disparaging, say, UNB or UofM, but UofT or Osgoode are likely to be better choices.  If you're interested in tax law, you may want to look at a school that offers more tax courses (or not, you might be interested in tax litigation, in which case, hey, you'll pick up the specialized knowledge if and when you need it).  If you're interested in corporate tax (as opposed to, say, estate planning), you'll also want to look at schools that offer richer corporate/business law course offerings, because corporate tax lawyers are first and foremost excellent corporate lawyers (course, even if you're interested in estate planning, you'll still want to pick up a good knowledge of corporate law, since the sort of people who have estates worth planning own corporations).  Again, every law school in Canada will teach you everything you need to know about business law, but a place like Osgoode will offer a richer assortment of course (I have in mind, in particular, its M&A intensive course with Davies, that's a solid course (or so I'm told) that adds real value if you can get into it.  I'm sure some other schools offer similar programs, but not all.)  

 

Also think about the type of exposure you can get.  I know for a fact that places like Osgoode, Western and UofT bring it top practitioners to teach some of their courses.  Now, whether they're any good as professors or not, I couldn't tell you, but they at least give you some exposure to real life bay street tax lawyers, if that's your thing, and exposure to the sort of real world transactions that certain tax academics have only read about.  Somehow I doubt (but stand to be corrected) that the same caliber of people are teaching at Windsor or Lakehead, but wouldn't be surprised to see their BC or Alberta peers at UBC or Calgary.  

 

In terms of getting an articling position, get good grades and show an interest in tax (but make sure you get good grades - tax lawyers like to think of themselves as elites of business law, and smarts are a deal breaker) and you'll be a hot commodity. 

 

 

Haha, good to know I am not alone. I am really taken back by all of the help I have gotten already, and I really appreciate you guys taking the time to help me out. 

 

So it sounds like you're suggesting that the exposure to more tax courses is one of the best predictors of landing that articling position? I touched upon this in my last reply, but do you think the benefit of taking tax courses at a top business school would outweigh the likely lower GPA I would get from attending those schools? I am planning on passing my CFA step 1 exam before starting law (assuming I get above 160 on the LSAT, otherwise I won't get too confident), as I figured it would make me more competitive for these positions, but I am not sure if that is time better spent pre-studying for law courses to obtain a higher GPA. I'm worried if I got into a top school my grades would suffer, despite meeting likely much better connections and learning more information that I am interested in. On the other-side, I'm worried that by going to a less competitive school, I may be able to get a competitive GPA, but not form any connections. Further complicating things, although my grades have always been good, I have trouble getting A+'s in courses that don't interest me, and I worry that this would affect my motivation as I would have less interesting electives available. I know I am asking ridiculous questions, but again, any information would be really helpful. 

 

Once again, thanks so much for your information!

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Gonna add a plug for University of Ottawa, as I always try to do.

We got Vern Krishna who's probably one of if not the top tax guy.

Macgregor who has helped draft parts of the Income Tax Act

 

And St-Hilaire who worked in Justice's tax litigation department (prior to this she was a teacher, like a real teacher, so she's got that added experience which other profs may not have)

 

Being in Ottawa gets you access to those on the other side of the table which is real good.

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Haha, good to know I am not alone. I am really taken back by all of the help I have gotten already, and I really appreciate you guys taking the time to help me out. 

 

So it sounds like you're suggesting that the exposure to more tax courses is one of the best predictors of landing that articling position? I touched upon this in my last reply, but do you think the benefit of taking tax courses at a top business school would outweigh the likely lower GPA I would get from attending those schools? I am planning on passing my CFA step 1 exam before starting law (assuming I get above 160 on the LSAT, otherwise I won't get too confident), as I figured it would make me more competitive for these positions, but I am not sure if that is time better spent pre-studying for law courses to obtain a higher GPA. I'm worried if I got into a top school my grades would suffer, despite meeting likely much better connections and learning more information that I am interested in. On the other-side, I'm worried that by going to a less competitive school, I may be able to get a competitive GPA, but not form any connections. Further complicating things, although my grades have always been good, I have trouble getting A+'s in courses that don't interest me, and I worry that this would affect my motivation as I would have less interesting electives available. I know I am asking ridiculous questions, but again, any information would be really helpful. 

 

Once again, thanks so much for your information!

 

 

Ok, let's dispense with the notion that there are "top business schools".  There are schools that have more of a business focus, but you can get a good business law education almost everywhere.  Also, trying to pick schools for an "easier" path to a high GPA is a mugs game.  Yes, UofT has a stronger collection of students (on average) than, say, Windsor.  But there are really smart people at Windsor and to a certain extent the strength of the UofT student body is factored into hiring (i.e., firms will got deeper into the pool at UofT then at Windsor).  If you're smart, you should be able to do well enough at any school to impress.  

 

In terms of interest, again, the reality is that at most, if not all, law schools in Canada offer a broad enough selection of course that you should be able to find courses of interest to you (and more importantly, a good legal education is a general one, you have to take a broad variety of courses to be a good lawyer).  Yes, some offer a richer selection of courses in some areas than others, but there's a lot of stuff to learn.  Again, take a look at the course calendars at the schools you're looking at, you'll see a lot of overlap.  

 

In terms of forming connections, people talk about it, I'd rate that as a very, very, soft factor.  I mentioned earlier that some schools bring in well-known practitioners, and that's nice, but while they may give you better exposure to the real world of tax and tell some exciting war stories, I don't think it does much for your career.  My tax profs were the types who never practiced in their lives, they still served me well. 

 

Your focus should be (i) finding a school in the province you want to work in, (ii) finding a school that seems like a nice fit for you (in terms of what you want to practice, personality, where you want to live, etc.), (iii) managing costs.  Obviously, they'll be some compromises there (e.g., maybe you go to McGill rather than UofT, sacrificing (i) in favour of (iii), or you go to Osgoode, rather than UofT, giving up some (ii) for (iii)).

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We got Vern Krishna who's probably one of if not the top tax guy.

 

 

He certainly writes a lot of op-eds!

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Ok, let's dispense with the notion that there are "top business schools".  There are schools that have more of a business focus, but you can get a good business law education almost everywhere.  Also, trying to pick schools for an "easier" path to a high GPA is a mugs game.  Yes, UofT has a stronger collection of students (on average) than, say, Windsor.  But there are really smart people at Windsor and to a certain extent the strength of the UofT student body is factored into hiring (i.e., firms will got deeper into the pool at UofT then at Windsor).  If you're smart, you should be able to do well enough at any school to impress. 

 

Yes. This.

 

People who insist on trying to "game" this system bug the hell out of me. Not because game theory is always wrong, or because it's illegitimate to try, but because they're so bad at it. It's like someone who has gained a five minute understanding of psychology responding to every question with "and how do you feel about that?" It's beyond embarrassing.

 

The idea that you can game any particular system relies on a fundamental prerequisite. You need to be operating on better information, or on a superior understanding, of how the system works. Start from there, and you may have something. Otherwise ... you're just delusional.

 

Law schools put in a lot of effort identifying the best candidates. They know the difference between applicants coming from X and Y background. They aren't perfect every time (how could anyone be?) but they try hard. The idea that you can trick them into accepting a less talented applicant (any of this "big fish in a small pond" or "I went where the competition was lighter" stuff) is just ludicrous. I'm not saying it's always the right students that get in. There's leakage in any system. I'm just saying they are trying very hard using the best information available. How is any would-be law student going to operate with better information than that? So lacking the most basic prerequisite to game the system, all you can do is take what you're good at and what you're interested in, apply, and let the system work the way it's supposed to.

 

I know, I just did the law school rather than the employment market fallacy, but I'm on a roll.

 

The employment market is, if anything, even more discerning. Employers are also very motivated to get the best employees possible. They have a lot of money riding on it. Whatever the difference is between a top 10% student at Windsor and a top 40% student at U of T ... employers do their best to figure it out. All kinds of fudge factor exists, and absolutely Canadian employers are conscious of the fact that we have a much "flater" hierarchy in our law schools, which suggests that a top student at one of our "weaker" schools could well be one of the best applicants in the pool. But that isn't the same as turning brain off and pretending there's no difference in the schools at all. Again, the fallacy that you could ever be smarter or better informed about the variances in a field that you know nothing about is just staggering arrogance. It's delusional. It's beyond beyond ridiculous.

 

If you want to learn tax law (which is actually a common go-to amongst applicants who like numbers and money, btw) go to a school with the best opportunities to learn the most tax law. It's really not that complicated. And you may or may not end up with the job you want, but it won't depend on how well you game the system. It'll depend on how good you are as a law student, and to a degree on factors you can't control regardless.

 

Good luck.

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Gonna add a plug for University of Ottawa, as I always try to do.

 

We got Vern Krishna who's probably one of if not the top tax guy.

 

Macgregor who has helped draft parts of the Income Tax Act

 

And St-Hilaire who worked in Justice's tax litigation department (prior to this she was a teacher, like a real teacher, so she's got that added experience which other profs may not have)

 

Being in Ottawa gets you access to those on the other side of the table which is real good.

 

Krishna is not even a top 30 guy in this country.  He writes intro level textbooks for students and op-eds on topics for the masses.  If the OP wants to be a corporate tax lawyer, he should not be positioning himself to get in front of Vern Krishna.  He should position himself to go to schools that bring in practitioners and/or that staff former practitioners.

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On 9/22/2016 at 5:34 PM, zzzzz said:

 

Krishna is not even a top 30 guy in this country.  He writes intro level textbooks for students and op-eds on topics for the masses.  If the OP wants to be a corporate tax lawyer, he should not be positioning himself to get in front of Vern Krishna.  He should position himself to go to schools that bring in practitioners and/or that staff former practitioners.

That's not true, Professor Krishna's textbook was cited many times by the SCC as a guideline in tax cases, the most prominent tax law professor from Queen's law school - Arthur Cockfield also mentioned that several times in his textbook "Materials on Canadian Income Tax, 15th Edition". 

BTW, Krishna is still a practitioner at TaxChambers LLP and his advanced taxation course in 3L is nothing but Corporate tax. Ian MacGregor who used to be a tax law partner at Osler Ottawa and former governor of Canadian tax foundation, is now the general counsel at PWC Ottawa. He currently teaches taxation I, tax avoidance, business organization and securities.

And just let you know, professor Janet Kasun who has been a tax laywer at BLG Ottawa for 11 year, also teaches Trusts. 

Edited by abcsucker

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