Jump to content
618194

Have an accounting degree, want to pursue law, but can't bring myself to give up the CPA

Recommended Posts

Hello all,

The title pretty much describes my situation. I am about to graduate with an accounting degree, have a B2 in the 3.5-3.6 range (82/83% on percentage scale), and am working for a national accounting firm. I am part of their CPA program in audit and will be earning a paycheque while they cover the costs for the CPA modules for the next three years approximately.

I have always wanted to pursue law, but as I have gotten older, business and accounting have also seemed like a good option as well, and I can't "reconcile the numbers" of fore going the CPA--the relevant costs just make it a superior financial decision, especially since I already incurred he cost of completing all the undergraduate requirements. The culture of the accounting profession seems more egalitarian and more transparent to outsiders than the legal one. the higher geographic mobility is appealing as well.

That being said, I know there is a lot of cross-over between the professions, especially b/c i work in public accounting ( I just started a month ago).Taxation, transaction advisory, corporate governance, financial crime, valuations etc. and am aware a law degree would allow me to explore these fields more fully- I really fee the skill sets complement each other more so than other degrees, and would be a differentiator in either market.  For example, I feel I would never be able to be a leading tax professional w/o a law degree--I would like feed back on if this assertation is true. FOMO keeps pulling me back to an interest in law

I have not written the LSAT and am unsure of how I am going to do that between the accounting busy season and CPA modules. Waiting to start the law application process post CPA is an option, but is going to take a very long time and opportunity cost will just be going up at that point, but I would be able to pursue law debt free. If I did pursue law, I would want to be "in the black" accounting for opportunity cost inclusive.

Just jotting down my morning thoughts and would like some perspective.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is just a random thought: is it that continuing to be a student is appealing to you? It can be tough to leave the ivory tower and join the real working world. Are you actually interested in law or are you really just interested in the comfort of "working towards" rather than just "working"?

Not trying to dissuade you, just to challenge you. One of my family members pursued two Masters because they just couldn't leave campus. Past forty now and they're still drowning in debt and regret.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would wait until you have your CPA certification and everything before applying to law school/taking your LSAT. Having worked at a tax law firm, having a CPA and experience using it can be really helpful for practicing tax law. & during that time while waiting, you can study for the lsat occassionally so you give yourself a good chance. 

waiting for the CPA seems to give you the best and broadest options, + it saves you money

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 minutes ago, Hegdis said:

This is just a random thought: is it that continuing to be a student is appealing to you? It can be tough to leave the ivory tower and join the real working world. Are you actually interested in law or are you really just interested in the comfort of "working towards" rather than just "working"?

Not trying to dissuade you, just to challenge you. One of my family members pursued two Masters because they just couldn't leave campus. Past forty now and they're still drowning in debt and regret.

I want to make a good investment. Continuing to be a student only appeals to me only if I can "make the money back". That being said, I genuinely enjoyed getting my business degree, but the strong employment opportunities post graduation played a role in that. I would hate to waste my time on esoteric academics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm going to second the idea of waiting until you've completed your CPA. A half finished professional designation (or degree, or anything else really) will get you exactly nothing. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Getting into law school is easy, the competition really starts in law school. As a K-JD, I wish I had some major real-life experiences. Most of my older classmates have much more experiences to draw on and having a CPA would be a major advantage, so don't rush into law school. 

  • Like 2
  • Confused 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
27 minutes ago, imonlywastingtime said:

I would wait until you have your CPA certification and everything before applying to law school/taking your LSAT. Having worked at a tax law firm, having a CPA and experience using it can be really helpful for practicing tax law. & during that time while waiting, you can study for the lsat occassionally so you give yourself a good chance. 

waiting for the CPA seems to give you the best and broadest options, + it saves you money

I have heard mixed responses with respect to this. the courses I have make it quite obvious that there is interplay between the two fields, We do study the ITA as part of an accounting degree, and the capstone consolidations course of an accounting degree studies M&A from a different perspective.

That being said, others have said it does not matter, these are your typical "arts grads" that went to law school however. let me put it this way: If I am undifferentiated in the market b/c of my CPA (education and work experience) from a typical social sciences grad who went straight after undergrad--the appeal of law diminishes quite a bit, if I am, then it increases substantially

Edited by 618194

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, JusticeLordDenning said:

Getting into law school is easy, the competition really starts in law school. As a K-JD, I wish I had some major real-life experiences. Most of my older classmates have much more experiences to draw on and having a CPA would be a major advantage, so don't rush into law school. 

LOL your way smarter than me if the getting in was easy for you. 

why is having a CPA an advantage? do you think this advantage justifies the cost?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, 618194 said:

I have heard mixed responses with respect to this. the courses I have make it quite obvious that there is interplay between the two fields, We do study the ITA as part of an accounting degree, and the capstone consolidations course of an accounting degree studies M&A from a different perspective.

That being said, others have said it does not matter, these are your typical "arts grads" that went to law school however. let me put it this way: If I am undifferentiated in the market b/c of my CPA (education and work experience) from a typical poli sci grad who went straight after undergrad--the appeal of law diminishes quite a bit, if I am, then it increases substantially

from what I gathered from my boss, tax law is a bit less popular than most other kinds because of the accounting aspect. it scares a lot of people off. 

at the law firm i worked at, the top lawyer had her CPA, the other lawyer did not - she was a polisci major. from what i could tell, CPA gives you the advantage of understanding all the tax & accounting complexities - i don't see how it wouldn't differentiate you. it may not differentiate you from others if you were to pursue like criminal law, but definitely if you go after something to do with tax, accounting or estate law.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, imonlywastingtime said:

from what I gathered from my boss, tax law is a bit less popular than most other kinds because of the accounting aspect. it scares a lot of people off. 

at the law firm i worked at, the top lawyer had her CPA, the other lawyer did not - she was a polisci major. from what i could tell, CPA gives you the advantage of understanding all the tax & accounting complexities - i don't see how it wouldn't differentiate you. it may not differentiate you from others if you were to pursue like criminal law, but definitely if you go after something to do with tax, accounting or estate law.

why did your boss leave the CPA profession for law? despite this being a law student forum, lets not forget something--- the CPA is no walk in the park either

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, 618194 said:

why did your boss leave the CPA profession for law? despite this being a law student forum, lets not forget something--- the CPA is no walk in the park either

I don't know exactly - I don't work there anymore, but I think she wanted to pursue law in general + she lived middle of nowhere out west, so law gives you a bit better of experience than being a CPA would. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
28 minutes ago, 618194 said:

LOL your way smarter than me if the getting in was easy for you. 

why is having a CPA an advantage? do you think this advantage justifies the cost?

just the holistic part of applications. For instance, having only worked student jobs really limits my ability to talk about why I might want to be a tax lawyer. If you get a CPA, you get to draw on those experiences and explain your reasoning on why you wish to be a tax lawyer. 

Edited by JusticeLordDenning

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it would be helpful to make your decision in less "relative" terms. Comparing the merits of a career you would have with a CPA and a career you would have with a JD on such broad terms is like comparing apples to oranges if you don't clearly articulate, rank and apply specific benchmarks that are important to you as an individual. Purely basing your decision on whether you'll be able to "make the money back" and generalizing the intellectual rigours of law school as "esoteric academics" at the outset is not a good starting point for making a major decision like this.

People I know who have both JD/CPA are by and large very attractive and competitive candidates that top firms vie for in the formal recruits, but all of them had put in between 1-3 years of hard work as an accountant, and came to the decision of pursuing a JD with that experience under their belt. Their work experiences are a strong factor in being favoured by big law firms (particularly in the tax law practice). That being said, they also genuinely enjoy studying law and find it to be a worthwhile exercise beyond somewhat of a necessary evil to a more lucrative career. If you lack an intrinsic interest for studying law beyond wanting to increase your future earning potential, I have a feeling that you will likely have a very painful time getting through the theory-heavy foundational 1L curriculum required at every law school, where business and accounting knowledge will not give you an upper hand.

One last point about being more differentiated from "art grads" when applying for jobs in tax law or business law generally:  assuming equal level of academic performance, students who are smart and well-spoken and demonstrate a clear, focused interest towards a specific area of law, backed up by extensive curricular/extra-curricular/co-curricular experiences will always be more likely to stand out from the rest. Someone with a social science degree who hasn't studied tax in undergrad but has demonstrable interests/experiences in tax law via mooting, working with tax law professors, etc. may not necessarily be considered less competitive than someone from a background like yours.

  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You should think about where you see yourself working after obtaining a JD. Do you want to practice law or stay in accounting? I don't know how having a JD would benefit you in accounting but the benefit of a CPA will be limited in practicing law. The vast majority of lawyers practicing tax law do not have a CPA designation. If you are expecting a huge advantage in your opportunities in law because you have a CPA, you are likely to be disappointed.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 minutes ago, erinl2 said:

You should think about where you see yourself working after obtaining a JD. Do you want to practice law or stay in accounting? I don't know how having a JD would benefit you in accounting but the benefit of a CPA will be limited in practicing law. The vast majority of lawyers practicing tax law do not have a CPA designation. If you are expecting a huge advantage in your opportunities in law because you have a CPA, you are likely to be disappointed.

 

See I disagree with this, but understand your reasoning. Transactions/ taxation/ corp. gov are both the work of CPAs and lawyers--there has to be some synergy or economies there, the combo is relatively rare in Canada so you wont really see it in the market. Fields like Transfer Pricing require both sets of knowledge, but rarely do you see a person w/ both--for the exact reasons of my first post.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't understand what the issue here is. Do you want to go to law school because you want to gain deeper understanding within the corporate/securities/tax world or because you think a law degree would give you an economic advantage over a CPA alone?

First, you don't necessarily need a law degree to be involved in advisory, M&A and tax. As a CPA candidate, you already know that. I also think most of the education would be from experience and on-the-ground training as opposed to something you learn from obtaining a degree. The job you get out of business school would be crucial as your entry point. If you're currently at one of the Big 4, it's probably a good place to be. 

Second, CPAs and lawyers make similar money, potentially more for CPAs who make it to C-level positions. I'm not certain a CPA combined with a JD would equal higher earning capacity than just a CPA or JD on its own. Economically, obtaining a law degree would not make sense given the large opportunity cost that comes with it. 

As a CPA drop-out, I hated accounting and went into it due to family pressure and a fear of being unemployed. So my reasons for going into law are different. I would think carefully about why you want to do this. I agree with the other posters that you would be better off completing your CPA and then deciding whether you want to go to law school. It would give you a better sense about what you can (and can't) do with your CPA and work experience. From there, you would be in a better position to assess the benefits and drawbacks of pursuing a JD.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
25 minutes ago, cherrytree said:

I think it would be helpful to make your decision in less "relative" terms. Comparing the merits of a career you would have with a CPA and a career you would have with a JD on such broad terms is like comparing apples to oranges if you don't clearly articulate, rank and apply specific benchmarks that are important to you as an individual. Purely basing your decision on whether you'll be able to "make the money back" and generalizing the intellectual rigours of law school as "esoteric academics" at the outset is not a good starting point for making a major decision like this.

People I know who have both JD/CPA are by and large very attractive and competitive candidates that top firms vie for in the formal recruits, but all of them had put in between 1-3 years of hard work as an accountant, and came to the decision of pursuing a JD with that experience under their belt. Their work experiences are a strong factor in being favored by big law firms (particularly in the tax law practice). That being said, they also genuinely enjoy studying law and find it to be a worthwhile exercise beyond somewhat of a necessary evil to a more lucrative career. If you lack an intrinsic interest for studying law beyond wanting to increase your future earning potential, I have a feeling that you will likely have a very painful time getting through the theory-heavy foundational 1L curriculum required at every law school, where business and accounting knowledge will not give you an upper hand.

One last point about being more differentiated from "art grads" when applying for jobs in tax law or business law generally:  assuming equal level of academic performance, students who are smart and well-spoken and demonstrate a clear, focused interest towards a specific area of law, backed up by extensive curricular/extra-curricular/co-curricular experiences will always be more likely to stand out from the rest. Someone with a social science degree who hasn't studied tax in undergrad but has demonstrable interests/experiences in tax law via mooting, working with tax law professors, etc. may not necessarily be considered less competitive than someone from a background like yours.

I am a little confused by this post, although I do appreciate the feed back. In your second paragraph you stated that a CPA/JD's work experience gave them a leg up wrt to recruiting. But then stated that an  someone w/o that background would be just as competitive all things being equal---buts that's the point, all things would not be equal--one person would have the 3 years of work xp and designation under their belt, the other would not. Mooting and research is irrelevant b/c those opportunities are available to both students--nothing is stopping the CPA from pursuing those, but the arts grad cant pursue the CPA, so it is a relevant cost, if all things were equal, the CPA and XP would be the only differentiator--if it is a differentiator at all. What I am saying is: does the previous knowledge base and experience working in client facing professional services provide value or not. Some have said yes, some have said no.

My benchmark is pretty clear wrt to law school--I need to recover my costs and build off my previous knowledge. This is not the sole decision criteria, but is  important. I was not specifically referring to law school when I said "esoteric academics", That point was there to just demonstrate that I would not go to school solely for intellectual stimulation, not that that's something I would not look for, but it would never be the sole reason. I think that got lost a bit, "making my money back" is not the sole reason for pursuing law, but it is the priority--w/o it I won't consider the other reasons I might attend. Obviously that's very hard to predict, hence the original post. Other reasons are indeed to increase my knowledge base and explore the fields that intersect the two professions--I would not go just to go through the motions, but  both the academic and investment components of post secondary education are part of the decision criteria.

I cant say whether I would enjoy studying law--I have not taken a class yet, but I did enjoy academics throughout my time in business school, have always been strong in writing and verbal reasoning, and feel law school would help me hone these strengths, and these are skills I enjoy using.  

I want to make a good investment AND pursue an enriching academic experience--both, not either/or. In event of tie, investment takes priority.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, erinl2 said:

You should think about where you see yourself working after obtaining a JD. Do you want to practice law or stay in accounting? I don't know how having a JD would benefit you in accounting but the benefit of a CPA will be limited in practicing law. The vast majority of lawyers practicing tax law do not have a CPA designation. If you are expecting a huge advantage in your opportunities in law because you have a CPA, you are likely to be disappointed.

 

45 minutes ago, 618194 said:

See I disagree with this, but understand your reasoning. Transactions/ taxation/ corp. gov are both the work of CPAs and lawyers--there has to be some synergy or economies there, the combo is relatively rare in Canada so you wont really see it in the market. Fields like Transfer Pricing require both sets of knowledge, but rarely do you see a person w/ both--for the exact reasons of my first post.

You need to be clear about what you want to be. Do you want to be a lawyer or a CPA? In theory you can leverage professional credentials and knowledge from option B while doing option A, but in 98% of outcomes you will just be one or the other and in 98% of outcomes your secondary credentials will be nothing more than a few letters underneath your signature. I mean, the secondary credential could be useful in advertising forever but how useful is a big question mark and if you are a practicing CPA and not a practicing lawyer, at some point you're just a CPA who knows the same as their peers, despite your previous dabbling with the law.  

In both professions you learn by doing. If you want to be a CPA who works in transactions, corporate governance, etc. then you will learn a hell of a lot more in 3 or 4 years of doing that as an accountant than you will in 3 or 4 years of law school. 

There are probably specific outcomes where you can leverage the double credentials into previously unattainable compensation but these are not going to be as straightforward as: step one become a CPA, step 2 become a lawyer, step 3 profit. I would think that a lot of the people who can leverage both professional roles are more like: hey I was a practicing CPA for ten years then I went back to law school and now I do tax litigation on Bay street and am a partner making a million bucks. 

I have my doubts that stacking degrees the way you are discussing is going to lead to enough ROI, considering opportunity costs. 

Edited by BringBackCrunchBerries
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, 618194 said:

Hello all,

The title pretty much describes my situation. I am about to graduate with an accounting degree, have a B2 in the 3.5-3.6 range (82/83% on percentage scale), and am working for a national accounting firm. I am part of their CPA program in audit and will be earning a paycheque while they cover the costs for the CPA modules for the next three years approximately.

I have always wanted to pursue law, but as I have gotten older, business and accounting have also seemed like a good option as well, and I can't "reconcile the numbers" of fore going the CPA--the relevant costs just make it a superior financial decision, especially since I already incurred he cost of completing all the undergraduate requirements. The culture of the accounting profession seems more egalitarian and more transparent to outsiders than the legal one. the higher geographic mobility is appealing as well.

That being said, I know there is a lot of cross-over between the professions, especially b/c i work in public accounting ( I just started a month ago).Taxation, transaction advisory, corporate governance, financial crime, valuations etc. and am aware a law degree would allow me to explore these fields more fully- I really fee the skill sets complement each other more so than other degrees, and would be a differentiator in either market.  For example, I feel I would never be able to be a leading tax professional w/o a law degree--I would like feed back on if this assertation is true. FOMO keeps pulling me back to an interest in law

I have not written the LSAT and am unsure of how I am going to do that between the accounting busy season and CPA modules. Waiting to start the law application process post CPA is an option, but is going to take a very long time and opportunity cost will just be going up at that point, but I would be able to pursue law debt free. If I did pursue law, I would want to be "in the black" accounting for opportunity cost inclusive.

Just jotting down my morning thoughts and would like some perspective.

My advice is, if you decide that you do want to go to law school, then finish the CPA first.

CPA + bar call + corporate/commercial law experience is a very good combination, if you want to be a corporate lawyer, that is.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 minutes ago, BringBackCrunchBerries said:

 

You need to be clear about what you want to be. Do you want to be a lawyer or a CPA? In theory you can leverage professional credentials and knowledge from option B while doing option A, but in 98% of outcomes you will just be one or the other and in 98% of outcomes your secondary credentials will be nothing more than a few letters underneath your signature. I mean, the secondary credential could be useful in advertising forever but how useful is a big question mark and if you are a practicing CPA and not a practicing lawyer, at some point you're just a CPA who knows the same as their peers, despite your previous dabbling with the law.  

In both professions you learn by doing. If you want to be a CPA who works in transactions, corporate governance, etc. then you will learn a hell of a lot more in 3 or 4 years of doing that as an accountant than you will in 3 or 4 years of law school. 

There are probably specific outcomes where you can leverage the double credentials into previously unattainable compensation but these are not going to be as straightforward as: step one become a CPA, step 2 become a lawyer, step 3 profit. I would think that a lot of the people who can leverage both professional roles are more like: hey I was a practicing CPA for ten years then I went back to law school and now I do tax litigation on Bay street and am a partner making a million bucks. 

I have my doubts that stacking degrees the way you are discussing is going to lead to enough ROI, considering opportunity costs. 

I hate this idea that we need to know what we want to be so early, I just started my CPA career, and am unfamiliar with law school--I can't be clear about want I want to be w/o experience--as is the case with most people. I am just looking for perspective.

look at these guys in the states, they are claiming the opposite of you:https://www.attorney-cpa.com/articles/cpas-consider-law-degree/

are they right? are you? I don't know, hence why I posted here. I am not seeking to "stack degrees", even if CPA was irrelevant, it would be a great way to mature and raise the $$ to attend law school. That being said, it intuitively makes sense that there is a market for both credentials (transfer pricing, estate planning, corporate tax come to mind, as I have said ad nauseum)--but there are relatively few occurrences of this in the Canadian market.

It's never as easy as "step 1, step 2.." that's for any job, you have to adapt to the market---I'm just trying to figure out if that market exists. Why do people get JD/MBAs? or dual JDs--you could make the same claim about these programs, but they are well established.

I understand that in both professions you learn by doing( again like any other job ever), but you cant enter either w/o their respective academic components, so that's all I am concerned about for now.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.


  • Recent Posts

    • Accepted Thursday.  cGPA: 3.63 / L2/L3: 3.9 LSATs: 161 (Nov 2020)  Best of luck to everyone waiting! 
    • This is not necessarily evidence that U of T students are smarter, its equally valid to argue that they simply have access to better coaching. I'm not saying that U of T students aren't smarter, just that the evidence you're relying on to prove your point is not as solid as you think it is.
    • @WannaBeLaw99 For my own curiosity, a few questions. When you say you handle drafting, as a partner, are you still taking the first stab at any document? For the more complex documents, how much variation do you have in the quality level of what’s handed to you for review - are you reviewing things drafted by juniors very often, or is there always a senior associate polishing things before they get to your desk? And what do you think is the likely difference between our practices that makes your weekends more predictable? I primarily do private transactions, almost exclusively PE, and while there are some weekends I’m working on something I just couldn’t get to over the week with no tight deadline, any weekend day with 10+ hours of work is usually a matter of receiving drafts in on Friday night/weekend or having a client send an email that causes everything to jumpstart asap. I don’t think the partners I work for have weekends that are significantly more predictable than mine. Though they can obviously get away with saying they’ll do something tomorrow a little easier than I can. The variation is nice in the sense that a month where I bill 150 means more time with my wife. But the flip side of that coin is that I more often have to cancel plans or suddenly and unexpectedly tell my wife I won’t be around for a chunk of time. I don’t know which is better in the long run, but I know that when I was a junior, the hardest part of the hours wasn’t the hours - it was the sense of being unable to control my own life. 

×
×
  • Create New...