First Person Accounts (FPA’s) are meant to provide a first-hand account of law graduates who have pursued, or are pursuing, a post-graduate course (an LLM or otherwise) from different universities across the world.
Adithya Reddy recently completed the Tax LLM at University of Florida’s Levin College of Law. In this FPA, he shares his reasons behind choosing this particular tax LLM, the LLM experience, and a whole lot more.
Was a Tax LLM always on the cards once you developed an interest in international tax law at RGNUL? Or was the LLM something you started looking at only once you gained some work experience?
As a 4th year law student at Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL) in 2016, I was introduced to the area of international tax during an internal moot court competition and was immediately captivated by its complexity.
This was the beginning of a lifelong intellectual fascination with the intricacies of international tax.
During the process, I challenged myself to learn about previously uncharted regions of international tax law and was exposed to the more hands-on components of the field, such as research and tax policy. This experience sparked an enthusiasm in me to broaden my horizons and discover something new about International Tax Law every day.
As an intern for Senior Advocate Mr. Arvind P. Datar, I gained valuable experience and insight into the intricacies pertaining to international taxation. While interning with Mr. Datar, I researched and assisted on a wide variety of international tax laws, which deepened my familiarity with the topic and helped me in realizing my full potential and discovering my interest for international tax law.
After graduating from law school, I was surprised to find that not many lawyers had delved further into the intriguing realm of international tax. In addition, there were no channels or avenues in India that would have allowed me to pursue my passion in the sector.
So, if I wanted to work in international tax, getting a Tax LLM looked like the next logical step.
The idea of getting a Tax LLM had been fermenting in my brain ever since my first exposure to international tax, but I knew I needed to gain valuable work experience first. So yes, you could say that I’ve given it constant thought.
The NIPFP is an interesting choice of employment – what got you looking at this, and were there any other organisations that you considered applying to?
I consider myself really fortunate to have had the opportunity to work at NIPFP, an autonomous institute under the aegis of Ministry of Finance. NIPFP is widely regarded as the leading research organization in India dealing with fiscal and tax policy, although few lawyers are aware of this.
So, after finishing law school, I worked in litigation for a while, but I ultimately decided that I wanted to move into an international tax position at a law firm or a similar organization. I interviewed with a number of law firms before landing a position at NIPFP, where I conducted extensive research on international tax law and public finance as part of NIPFP’s public policy study and research projects.
NIPFP appealed to me because it provided an opportunity to do something that not many lawyers get to do; typically, those who work in law firms are part of a broad setting where they may not immediately be responsible for handling complex matters.
NIPFP, on the other hand, allowed me to acquire knowledge and practical experience in a single year that would ordinarily take another person two to three years to achieve.
Apart from UF Law, what were the other schools that you applied to?
Surprisingly, ending up at UF Law was almost a coincidental and last-minute thing. Let me take you back in time: I was supposed to start my LLM in 2020, but Covid-19 forced me to cancel all plans, so I postponed my admission to the University of Amsterdam LLM program, which was the only one I had applied to that year.
Fortunately for me, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I ended up doing additional research on the LLM programs to which I was applying in 2021. I submitted applications to the University of Florida (UF), Northwestern University, University of Amsterdam, University of Melbourne, and Maastricht University.
And was ultimately accepted to all of them, with scholarships at Northwestern and UF Law.
Since its establishment, UF’s Tax LLM program has been consistently ranked among the top three Tax LLM programs in the United States. This was a major reason in my decision to attend UF Law.
How early did you start the LLM application process, and what was the most challenging aspect of the entire process?
When I decided to pursue a career in international tax in 2016, I mentally began the LLM application process. Although many would argue that it is excessive, I am a firm believer in getting to know every aspect of a given thing before diving into it.
I would research different universities’ programs, career opportunities, Professors, alumni, and other criteria almost every week, which helped me gain a holistic perspective of things before deciding to pursue my LLM.
In the end, as the tax joke goes, you will not be taxed for being overly prepared!
Sticking with this, what do you think is the most efficient way of getting in touch with current LLM graduates and alum?
If you’ve been following me on LinkedIn, you’ll notice that I’m a big fan of networking and building relationships. One of the best ways to find out about a program is to talk to current students and alumni and ask them any questions you have about the program.
If my memory serves me right, I must have talked to at least 100–200 alumni from all the universities I was applying to.
One of the best ways to network with alumni would be to use LinkedIn effectively or to look up their email addresses from university records that are available online. The vast majority of them are incredibly helpful and happy to assist with any questions you may have.
What were some of the expectations you had from the Tax LLM, and looking back, were these met?
Throughout the course of the program, I had several expectations from the Tax LLM, including learning from the professors, my colleagues, and of course the required reading.
Being able to engage and collaborate with candidates from the US and the rest of the world as an international student is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will better prepare you for working in an international environment in the real world.
One aspect that sets the UF Tax LLM apart from other Tax LLM programs is that 90% of the fellow classmates were Americans and the remaining 10% were international students, giving you a true American education in the strictest sense.
Does UF Law provide career development services to LLM graduates? What role did they play in your search for employment?
When it comes to career services for LLM students, UF Law is among the best in the country. Even before we were admitted into the LLM program, all aspiring LLM candidates were given a sneak peek into the Program’s career services.
The Admissions staff was very helpful and kind, and they were delighted to answer any questions that students had about the program and its many benefits, including employment statistics, networking and work opportunities.
In addition to providing me with a personally tailored plan, my career advisor and counselor Joshua Alter was a lot of fun to work with as he also assisted me in fine-tuning my résumé. Prof. Charlene Luke, who is also the Associate Dean for the UF Tax LLM Program, deserves a special mention for her constant encouragement and guidance to all students!
In the same vein, any comments on the employment opportunities for international trained lawyers specialising in tax law in the US?
I can only say that if you have a diverse set of skills and do well in the course, you will have many options open to you. Because of the global nature of international tax, it unquestionably increases the employment opportunities for international trained lawyers. Depending on your profile and market conditions, opportunities at Big4 firms, accounting firms, BigLaw, Magic Cicle, and others may arise.
Finally, there is no one-size-fits-all solution; it is dependent on your specific situation.
Did you have to write the Bar examination in order to find employment? If yes, how early did you start the Bar Prep and if not, do you think that you will eventually have to clear the Bar?
Currently, I am an Indian-qualified lawyer working as an advisor/consultant with a Big4 firm’s International Tax group in New York City. Because I am not working as a lawyer with a law firm, I did not have to take the Bar exam in order to find work.
Typically, law firms require that you have already cleared the Bar of a specific state or that you have already given the Bar and are anticipating the result in the near future.
As we speak, I am preparing for the California Bar exam in July, and I am determined to pass so that I can call myself a dual-qualified lawyer working in the United States.
There is no requirement for me to pass the Bar exam at the moment, but passing the Bar is very useful in many situations. If nothing else, it certainly has a nice ring to it!
Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who is considering a master’s abroad?
Many Indian law school graduates, I’ve noticed, travel to the US or the UK to earn an LLM without a clear objective in mind, viewing their time at university as an extended vacation in the Swiss Alps. If you are one of these students, my advise to you is to not pursue an LLM.
In my opinion, the only LLMs worth pursuing for the sake of your career are the Tax LLM and, to a lesser extent, the Corporation Laws LLM from an Ivy League law school.
The majority of LLMs, with the exception of these two types, are not worth the hype. Only those applicants who are serious about turning their experience into a career path should truly seek the opportunity.
The general rule of thumb is that getting an LLM is not worthwhile, if it doesn’t change the trajectory of your career from where it was before you got the degree. However, I must add that an LLM is not a wonder drug that would instantly enable you to fly if you were previously unable to even walk.
My suggestion is to approach the program as a learning opportunity that will equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to successfully navigate your chosen field upon completion.