The Tax Law Association recently hosted a “Careers in Tax Law” panel discussion with three prominent alumni. Co-sponsored by the ABA Section of Taxation, the panel featured Michael Grohman, Partner at Duane Morris LLP; Frank Lavadera, Principal at KPMG LLP; and Karen Tenenbaum, Partner, Karen Tenenbaum, P.C. All graduated from the Law School in 1983.
Tax Law Association President Jason Feingertz ’13 introduced the three panelists, each of whom spoke briefly about his or her career path and provided students with recommendations for professional success. While each had a unique experience and offered a different perspective, every panelist emphasized the fact that a strong professional network is critical.
As the only solo practitioner among the three, Tenenbaum provided a unique perspective, contrasting her experience with that of working for a large firm. An Executive Board Member of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants (NYSSCPA) and Past Chair of the Tax Law Committee of the Nassau County Bar Association, Tenenbaum stressed the importance of joining various legal and accounting professional organizations, and establishing leadership roles within those organizations, in order to expand one’s professional network. In addition, she continues to build her professional credibility and expertise through her legal writing and public speaking engagements. She also advised students to find a “niche” and focus on a specialty in order to distinguish themselves from other lawyers.
As National Principal-in-Charge of Risk Management-Tax at KPMG, Lavadera is responsible for the policy and oversight of efforts to monitor risk in the tax practice and compliance with regulatory requirements. He believes that his law degree provides him with an important advantage in that position, better enabling him to analyze, read and interpret those regulations. Lavadera, who began his career working for the IRS, recommended that young attorneys remain flexible and willing to consider new and different career opportunities as they become available. He also stressed the importance of hard work, noting that the field of tax law is a very small community and by delivering a quality work product, one can quickly build a solid reputation.
Grohman, Chair of Duane Morris LLP’s Wealth Planning Practice Group and head of the firm’s New York office, practices in the areas of tax and estate planning and administration. Noting that he originally learned of an open position at Duane Morris through a former BLS classmate, he echoed the sentiments of his fellow panelists in highlighting the importance of having a strong professional network and advised students to “treat every person you meet as a possible connection.” As a BLS graduate, Grohman said he feels an obligation to serve as a resource to current students by being a mentor and participating in panel discussions such as this one.
Though each of the panelists earned an LLM, one point where they differed was in their opinions on the value of the degree. When asked what they look for on a resumé, Tenenbaum responded that an LLM could help distinguish someone from other attorneys, while Lavadera suggested that lawyers could better distinguish themselves through their professional experience. Grohman stated that an LLM is not a pre-requisite, and noted that he would rather train someone himself than rely on an institution to provide that training.
The panelists generated a great deal of dialogue and engagement with the students. The discussion provided an insider’s perspective on the options available to attorneys in the field of tax law, effectively dispelling the myth that a career in tax law consists of merely “putting large numbers in little boxes.”