How do I Become a Property Tax Attorney?

C. Mitchell

The most direct way to become a property tax attorney is to attend law school, pass your jurisdiction’s bar exam, and then secure work in a property tax practice group or law firm. On paper, the necessary steps to become a property tax attorney are not many. Once you have the basic qualifications to be a practicing lawyer, choosing property tax as your area requires no special certification or declaration. Property tax as a specialty is a limited field, however, and breaking in often requires determination, experience, and persistence in addition to the requisite educational credentials.

Though there is no special certification or declaration, property tax as a law specialty is a limited field.
Though there is no special certification or declaration, property tax as a law specialty is a limited field.

Before anyone can become a property tax lawyer, he or she must first become a lawyer more generally. The vast majority of jurisdictions regulate the legal profession by requiring all lawyers to complete a prescribed course of legal education, which usually culminates with a comprehensive licensing or bar exam. Most law schools are geared toward providing a broad legal education. It is very rare for a law student to have the chance to specialize or major in any specific subject matter.

Still, some law schools have stronger property tax law divisions than others, and schools vary with respect to the sorts of electives they offer. If you are still in school and want to become a property tax attorney, one of the best things to do is to to take as many property, real estate law, and tax electives as you can during the year. Over the summers, looks for work in a property tax law firm, or within the real estate law sector.

The work of a property tax lawyer in many ways intersects with that of a real estate lawyer. Both work with property title transfers, and interpret the consequences of major events like sales, leases, and valuation changes. A property tax attorney is often more focused on the tax consequences of a given transaction while the real estate attorney typically hones in on the broader details, but the jobs nevertheless overlap. It is usually possible to do property tax work in a real estate law firm. In fact, most real estate firms have a distinct need for tax-trained attorneys.

Work experience and training is perhaps the single most important thing to consider when looking to become a property tax attorney. Much of legal practice is what you make it. Once you have graduated from law school and passed the bar exam, developing the contours of your legal profession is basically a blank slate. No matter what you focused on in law school, it is usually possible to find work in the property tax law sector — but this often takes some work. You will need to show prospective employers that you have both the drive and the aptitude to succeed in order to become a property tax attorney.

Taxation is a highly complex field that is not easy to simply pick up. It is possible to become a property tax attorney without formal tax training, but usually a lack of tax knowledge must be compensated for with strength somewhere else. Expertise in areas like mortgage finance law, estate transfers and deeds, or housing markets can be beneficial. Lawyers with experience in some sort of real estate transactions looking to augment their resumes to become a property tax attorney can enroll in advanced graduate-level Master of Laws (LL.M.) programs in tax. They can also look to join tax-related cases their firm is handling, if any, or otherwise get involved with some kind of tax work on the side.

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