An accounting lawyer is both a licensed lawyer and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), combining both the expertise in law and accounting.
Those who want to gain a competitive edge seek to become accounting lawyers. Not only does wearing both hats make one more well-rounded in terms of skill, but it will also make them more marketable to clients.
If you are interested in attaining education in both accounting and law, here’s a way to accomplish it.
An accounting lawyer’s educational requirements
You can opt for a Bachelor’s Degree in Accountancy as your pre-requisite to law school. Here are the steps to becoming an accountant:
- Complete your state’s educational requirements. The majority of state boards of accountancy require the completion of an undergraduate degree, like an online accounting degree.
- Take the CPA examination. Send an application to your state board. You’ll have to submit copies of your college transcripts and other educational requirements.
- Pass all four parts of the exam. The CPA exam is the same in every state.
- Apply for a CPA license. After you passed the CPA exam, you’ll need to submit an application to your state’s board to get your CPA license. Once you obtain your license, you can now start providing accounting services.
After getting your CPA license, it’s time to catch the big fish. Here are the steps to becoming a lawyer:
- Enroll in a law school. Most states would require an individual to earn a Juris Doctorate – the degree earned after finishing law school – before practicing law. Some states don’t require a law school education at all. Instead, they accept correspondence courses, or even working a certain number of years in a law office as eligibility to take the bar exam.
- Pass the bar exam. Once you complete law school or your alternative education, you’ll need to pass the bar exam in the state where you want to become a lawyer.
- Apply for admission to the bar. State bar associations will need to approve your bar application first before granting your law license. After a thorough background check, you can start now practicing as a licensed lawyer.
Lawyers and CPAs were taught in school to view issues from completely separate perspectives. Being dually-licensed experts will help them combine these distinct concepts to ensure every angle in their case is covered.
What does an accounting lawyer do?
When a client demands the dual need for an accountant and an attorney, they won’t have to pay for two, different, highly priced services.
An accounting lawyer can give advice on both the legal and financial aspects of business decisions that encompass both legal and monetary implications.
Matters like tax consequences and estate planning involve complex legal and financial principles that interlink. An accounting lawyer will be able to provide a well-rounded understanding of how these abstracts work.
They will also be very much suited for cases concerning estate planning, taxation law, white-collar criminal law, corporate finance law or forensic accounting.
Often, CPAs and lawyers will work side by side to prepare cases for litigation. An accounting lawyer will be able to wear both hats. Imagine how much money a business can save by hiring an accounting lawyer.
Benefits of an undergraduate degree in accounting in law school
Accountancy encourages the development of problem-solving skills, which can be handy when already dealing with case studies in law school.
Likewise, all accounting degrees include courses on business law and federal taxation. These courses expose students to the regulations that govern corporations, which are a staple in law school.
Also, the forensic accounting courses present a good introduction to the legal aspects of accounting and their role in the criminal justice system.
More knowledge, more flexibility
A 2018 study shows that two-thirds of accountants worldwide feel that the profession is becoming more competitive than ever.
As corporate laws are refreshed to prevent fraudulent activities within public and private organizations, the need for people with investigative accounting skills grows.
Many lawyers may have taken courses on taxation or estate law, but it’s unlikely that they’ll have the full accounting knowledge CPAs have. Especially if they don’t often practice in areas of law that deal with finances. Conversely, an accounting lawyer who chooses to focus on accounting will have an advantage over most CPAs. They’ll be familiar with the litigation processes, making them a much better expert when it comes to court cases.
The legal and accounting fields have many areas of overlap and becoming dually-licensed will give you far greater insight and perspective than the average lawyer or accountant.
Although the Juris Doctorate and CPA credentials are distinguished and are not easily attained, some strive to attain both to rise above the competition. With a joint degree, your expertise will set you apart and give you that much needed competitive advantage.