Guest post: Alum/recent law school grad working in tax law

Seamus Brennan graduated from UMass Amherst in 2007 with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in History. He received his law degree from Rutgers-Newark this past May, and now works in the international tax law division of a prominent financial services firm.  Seamus recently contacted the Pre-Law Advising Office, offering to be of assistance to undergrads and alums who are considering law school.  He kindly answered a few questions about his experiences for publication on the blog.

Why did you choose Rutgers-Newark?

I am from northern NJ and I wanted to attend a law school in the metro New York area. Rutgers enabled me to do this while keeping my law school debt low due to the scholarship they gave me and the low in-state tuition.


Which parts of law school surprised you?

The amount of work required the first year exceeded my expectations. Everyone I talked to who graduated from law school told me the first year was the hardest. They weren’t kidding.


What did you enjoy/dislike about law school?

Generally, the one thing I really disliked about law school was that one three or four hour exam determined your entire grade. Hours of reading and studying are distilled to one exam at the end of the semester, and that one exam is the only metric used to determine how well you did in that class.


The experience I enjoyed the most at Rutgers was participating in the federal tax clinic. The tax clinic allowed me to use what I learned in the classroom and apply it in a practical environment. As a member of the tax clinic, I represented low income tax payers before the IRS and I argued motions before the U.S. Tax Court.


What did you do during your summer internships, and how did you get those jobs?

The summer after 1L, I worked at a small law firm (25-50 attorneys) in NJ. I got this job through networking.


The summer after 2L, I split my time between the law firm where I worked the previous summer and the N.J. Tax Court. I got the job at the N.J. Tax Court by sending my resume to every N.J. Tax Court judge and calling every judge’s chambers until I got an interview.


Was it difficult to get a job?

It was very difficult to get a job. Two weeks into the on-campus interview process Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. This made a tough process even harder. I had over 30 on-campus interviews while I was at Rutgers, with almost every type of employer: big NYC law firms, big NJ law firms, federal government agencies, state government agencies, smaller NY/NJ law firms, accounting firms, consulting firms, banks, etc.


In the end, I was able to get a great job with a prominent financial services firm doing international tax work in New York City. I believe this was possible because I showed a demonstrated interest in the field: I had great grades in all of my tax classes, I worked in the Rutgers federal tax clinic and at the NJ tax court, and I was the research assistant for a well known tax professor.


What do you enjoy/dislike about your job? How many hours a week are you working?  What kind of work are you doing?

I really enjoy my job because every day I learn something new.  I work anywhere from 50-70 hours a week, depending on what our clients are doing. I work on the tax issues that arise from cross-border M&A [mergers and acquisitions], foreign companies investing in the U.S., U.S. companies investing in other countries, and the tax treatment of different financial instruments.


Is there anything you would have done differently, or anything you’re particularly glad you did do?

I am very glad I found an area of law that interested me while I was in my first year of law school. Because of this, I knew what I wanted to do when I graduated and I could work towards this end the remaining two years.