By Maren Hendricks.
The need for professionals with both a legal and advanced accounting background is expected to increase as companies and businesses expect increased oversight from a strengthened internal revenue department. A dual JD/MAcc program allows students to simultaneously earn a Juris Doctor and a Masters in Accounting. Graduates can become both lawyers and CPAs and are well positioned to contribute to an increasingly vibrant interdisciplinary marketplace.
A CPA lawyer is a more comprehensive service provider
Accountants who have a thorough understanding of legal issues can offer more comprehensive advice to their clients. Likewise, attorneys who have an advanced understanding of accounting can better identify potential tax issues and provide practical solutions in structuring transactions and conducting negotiations. CPAs are well equipped to advise their clients on matters ranging from estate planning to securities and trust law to the sale of a business.
Recognize synergies in combining the study of law and accounting and perceive the benefits of dual expertise for clients in tax and corporate law, three of the top 25 law schools (University of Virginia, Brigham Young University and University of Florida) as well as a number of other national law schools offer a combined J.D. and Master of Accountancy degree. For example, Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School (BYU Law) and BYU’s Marriott School of Business offer a JD/MACc dual degree (law.byu.edu/departments/admissions/joint-degrees/ ). This joint degree begins at BYU Marriott with the first year focused exclusively on Macc courses. The second year of the program focuses exclusively on law courses, and the third and fourth years include a combination of MAcc and law school courses.
Duncan Hamilton, recent graduate of BYU Law JD/MAcc, now a tax attorney at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, highlights the intersection between accounting and law. “The law defines the reasoning and policies that underlie the accounting rules. It becomes easier to play by the rules and use good judgment when you understand both. »
Clients benefit from advisors who offer both accounting expertise and legal analysis
Real-world problems often require solutions from a legal and business perspective.
JD/MAcc graduates from BYU Law have complementary legal and accounting skills that enable them to offer both of these perspectives to clients. As practitioners, they offer an accounting discipline along with strong communication skills and the ability to think critically about complex issues.
Rebekah Bingham, a 2022 grad who now practices tax and corporate law at Latham & Watkins, sees adding a legal background to her CPA as “transformative” for her “mathematical brain.” “In accounting, there is always a right answer. Debits and credits must match and there is a place for everything,” she says. “My 1L classes were so different from the classes I had taken. During the first semester of law school, I had an amazing teacher who taught me the importance of considering good arguments from both sides of a question. The law is a whole new structure. It takes practice, but in the process my mind changed proficiently. Legal training required Rebekah to become more creative and open-minded when approaching problems, and she brings that ingenuity to her accounting practice when helping clients in her practice.
Recently graduated Andrew Juergen is now part of Kirkland & Ellis’ Corporate Law Department, where his combined legal and accounting skills allow him to better serve clients. “Having a legal background that taught me to read, write and understand contracts makes me a better accountant. On the other hand, the more familiar a lawyer is with financial statements, taxes, capitalization tables, distribution cascades, valuation methods and other topics covered in accounting courses, the better prepared he will be to help his clients.
BYU Law’s JD/MACc expands to better meet demand for graduates
When Professor Gladriel Shobe, a leading expert on Up-C IPO structure and tax receivable agreements, joined BYU Law School in 2016, she immediately recognized the practical value of the JD/ MACc and quickly became the program’s ambassador. Professor Shobe started giving presentations to undergraduate accounting students at the BYU Marriott School of Business, and she found that generating interest in the dual program doesn’t require a lot of encouragement; “The program sells,” says Shobe.
The number of students enrolled in BYU Law’s dual degree program has grown steadily since its introduction in 2016, with JD/MAcc students representing approximately 10% of BYU Law’s current 1L and 2L classes. The JD/MAcc program is expected to expand further in the coming years as students recognize that industry demand for combined legal/accounting skills exceeds supply, and the high salaries reflect this. JD/MACc graduates simply offer more, and customers are willing to pay for it. Shobe says she speaks with a prospective JD/MACc student almost once a week, which comes as no surprise to her: “We offer students a program that develops a combination of skills that employers really need. These students are incredibly marketable.
Maren Hendricks is a graduate of UCLA Law School, served as a First Amendment litigator in Los Angeles, and is now Publications Manager at BYU Law (law.byu.edu).