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Travers Smith tax lawyer Emily Clark

Tax law: area of practice

Tax lawyers need to be able to turn technical knowledge into sound, commercial advice that clients can engage with.
There is an increasing push from HMRC to clamp down on tax avoidance and ensure that everyone pays their fair share.

A firm’s tax practice provides clients with tax advice in a wide variety of areas. For example, as a transactional and advisory tax practice in a City firm, we advise founders, management teams and institutional investors on the tax implications of private equity-backed transactions, we advise asset managers and investment funds, and we also advise clients on a wide variety of corporate, finance and property tax matters.

Legal advice and international tax advisers

My specialist area is the taxation of asset managers and investment funds so a more typical project for my team might be to advise a client on the formation of a new fund. This would involve providing advice on choosing the right jurisdiction, on how the team working for the fund will be remunerated, and thinking through tax issues that might arise in the short term and during the life of the fund. Usually, two or three members of the tax team would be involved in a project like this and we would work alongside our colleagues in our corporate investment funds practice. We also often work with international tax advisers on other jurisdictions.

The typical working hours depend on how many projects and transactions are active; however, with clients who appreciate quick replies, lawyers in this area do often work late into the evenings and occasionally during the weekends. This can also work the other way: if work is quiet, associates are encouraged to make the most of it and go home.

Aside from working in the office, I regularly go to meetings with clients, attend conferences and seminars (for example, as a member of various tax industry bodies) and I also write articles for tax publications.

Translating legal advice

The work is extremely varied, interesting and technically challenging but the key is to be able to translate that technical advice into sound, commercial advice that clients can engage with. It’s a great feeling to build lasting relationships with clients and know you’ve made their lives easier and supported them in achieving their aim. While I enjoy all aspects of my job, it is easy to get into bad habits and eat lunch at my desk without getting out and stretching my legs.

Tax is an area that is making the headlines more and more as there is an increasing push from HMRC to clamp down on tax avoidance and ensure that everyone pays their fair share. This makes it an extremely interesting time to be a tax adviser.

How will Brexit affect tax law?

Tax is always relevant – whether the market is doing well or not – and it is fair to say that tax practices throughout the City have grown significantly over the last few years despite the economic climate. Brexit will clearly bring new challenges but we are already seeing some potentially very exciting opportunities coming out of it from a tax perspective.

Read TARGETjobs' advice on how to talk about Brexit in your training contract interview here.

What sort of work does a trainee in tax law do?

Trainees have opportunities to get involved in interesting transactions and advisory work. They take on responsibility for reviewing and drafting documents and notes of tax advice – with support from more senior members of the team, of course. It is a challenging area of practice but it is a misconception that tax is all about maths and number crunching; it’s a conceptual and commercial practice area and is important within the wider firm.

Types of law practised by tax lawyers

  • Contract.
  • Property.
  • Tort law.
  • Tax is relevant in all areas of law.

Successful tax solicitors have...

  • The ability to understand, analyse and apply difficult areas of law in a commercial context.
  • The ability to stand back and see the wider commercial picture.
  • Strong communication skills for giving clear commercial advice..

EMILY CLARK is a partner in the tax group of TRAVERS SMITH LLP and co-head of graduate recruitment at the firm. She graduated with a degree in modern history from Oxford University in 1992.

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