Q & A with Lynda
Why did you decide to pursue an LL.M. degree?
I changed career tracks a few years ago and transitioned into estate planning. I had no prior background in that area and quickly discovered that I needed a thorough foundation in tax in order to advance my career and feel confident about my new competency. When I found myself between jobs during the recession, I decided that it was the perfect time to invest in the training I needed to succeed. I enrolled part-time in the Graduate Tax Program and completed the program in two years. This gave me the balance in my schedule to develop additional career experience and take care of my family.
Why did you choose BU?
The Graduate Tax Program is well known among the estate planning bar. It is the only tax program in the Boston area, and all the estate planning lawyers I knew either had their LL.M. in tax from BU or wished they had the time for it.
What has been the biggest change between law school and your classes here in the LL.M. program?
I was a “second career” student, returning to school after 20 years. The biggest change for me was buying a laptop and using it in class to take notes and write my exams! Otherwise, the style of lecturing, preparing for class and taking exams was very similar to my experience at Boston College Law School 20 years ago. The other difference was the presence of many part-time students who are practicing lawyers, like myself. They asked practical real world questions based on client problems. Almost all of the teachers also have full-time law practices, either in a firm or government practice, and they routinely peppered their lectures with examples of actual client problems and resolutions. There is a strong practical streak that runs through the program.
What made you decide to pursue a concentration in estate planning?
I entered the program for the specific purpose of gaining a foundation in the tax aspects of estate planning. I was very pleased at the number of electives in the area and caliber of teachers, many of whom are leaders in the estate planning bar in Boston and nationally renowned. The LL.M. program allows for seven electives, and I took six which were directly related to estate planning. Several other courses might be of peripheral interest to estate planners, and depending on how my career develops, I may come back to audit some of these. One of the special benefits of being an alum of the program is the ability to come back and audit classes for free.
What do you plan to do after graduation?
I have started my own practice working as a contract lawyer for estate planning and tax firms. This combines my new expertise with an entrepreneurial edge born of a desire to control my future career path and offer a mutually beneficial arrangement to small firms in this challenging economy.
One of the unexpected side benefits of the Graduate Tax Program was the expansion of my career options. I started the program with the intention of becoming a better trained and credentialed estate planning lawyer. The program’s five required classes and other electives exposed me to tax practice beyond the world of estate planning and sparked my interest in working on tax matters broadly related to fiduciaries, trusts and individuals. Having an LL.M. in tax definitely gives one a competitive advantage and specific skills to advance career goals.
Do you have any advice for students applying to the Graduate Tax Program at Boston University?
If you are enrolling as a full-time student, be prepared to work hard! It is an intensive year. You’ll be taking six classes at once and carrying a load which is 50% heavier than law school. It is manageable, but you have to be prepared to live and breathe tax for nine months. If you enroll as a part-time student, your schedule will permit you to handle other responsibilities, such as work or a family. BU as a whole, and the Law School and Graduate Tax Program specifically, offer many resources to help you succeed in whichever path you choose.
Take advantage of as many of these tools as possible, including the Office of Professional Development's counseling services and presentations, occasional lectures by visiting presenters, librarians who can help you find anything -- including from your home while you chat with them online, IT assistance to support your laptop while at school, access to the faculty who respond to your questions via email mid-week and remain available as resources after graduation, and many social opportunities arranged by a supportive Graduate Tax Program staff. The Graduate Tax Program can be a fulfilling career experience if you make it so.