Interview with Tax Attorney Craig S. Lair


Today’s post is an interview with Craig Lair, a tax and estates attorney at the Rose Law Firm. I first met Craig back in 2007, the summer before I started law school, when I was a Summer Assistant at the firm. I worked with him again in 2009 when I was a Summer Associate there. Craig stands out amongst the attorneys I’ve worked for, because he goes out of his way to be helpful and friendly, despite his busy schedule. This blawg is heavily weighted towards litigation, so Craig seemed like the perfect person to help give some perspective on the mysterious world of transactional law.

Craig is a 2012 Super Lawyer, a 2012 Lawyer of the Year, and a 2013 “Best Lawyer in America.” He was a Staff Editor of the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Forum, a First Place finisher in the National Wechsler First Amendment Moot Court Competition, and recipient of the Fisher, Tousey, Leas, and Ball Outstanding Estate Planning Award at Duke University.

JenniferAre you from Arkansas? 

Craig: Yes, I’m from a place near Harrison.

JenniferWhere did you go to college?

Craig: I went to Harding University and got a Bachelor’s of Business Administration. I went to law school at Duke University and graduated in 1995. I got a Master’s degree in Economics the same year.

JenniferAre you married? 

Craig: Yes, I have been married for twenty years. I have two children, a son, 15 and a daughter,9.

JenniferWhat did you do after you graduated?

Craig: I went to work for Rose Law Firm. Other than one year spent in-house for a client, I have worked there since I graduated.

JenniferWhat made you decide that you wanted to go to law school? 

Craig: I interned for Representative John Paul Hammerschmidt and worked with a few environmental lawyers on the Clean Water Act. I also worked with a lot of lawyers who were lawyers /lobbyists. Watching them work was interesting. I went to law school thinking I was going to be a Clean Water Act lawyer.

JenniferWhat does a typical day look like for you?

Craig: I usually work on 6-10 matters per day, so there are lots of diverse issues. It could be anything from disputes to planning estates, to any assortment of business questions. I represent a lot of smaller businesses and privately held businesses and consult on various  issues like transferring the business, selling businesses, getting money to start a new business, and employment or contract issues.

Jennifer:  My blawg is primarily designed for new attorneys or even those still in law school. Would you recommend your job to someone else? 

Craig: Yes. I think there is a decline in demand right now, but I see it picking up in the future.

JenniferI see that you are admitted to the U.S. Tax Court. Do you primarily practice there or in state court? 

Craig: It’s a bad day for me if I am in either one. I try to stay out of both of them. Lately, I’ve had a lot of probate work though, so more state court. Some years it is different. The Tax Court meets in Little Rock one week a year, but I may travel to other places that it is being held, like D.C., just depending on the client.

JenniferIt sounds like you hit other areas of the law, like labor and finance?

Craig: Yes, although if the issues gets too specific or complicated, we will associate with specialty counsel. For instance, if there is an employment layoff issue with potential for litigation, we will pull in a labor lawyer. You never know what kind of issues are going to come up though. I recently had a Constitutional law issue in a case. I haven’t had to look at one of those since law school.

JenniferWhat other advice can you give to people just starting out? 

Craig: If you want to be a tax attorney, you should get an LLM. But only get an LLM if you know where you are going to be working and they are helping finance or pay for it.  For tax, I think either NYU or Florida is best. If you haven’t already been placed for employment, getting an LLMmay not be worth it.

I don’t think there is any particular personality you need to be a tax attorney. There are quiet tax attorneys and others that are less quiet.

JenniferHow do you make sure you spend enough time with your family, work out, and maintain your practice?

Craig: Get up early! I woke up at 5:30 am this morning so I could swim. I try and do that a couple times per week. The rest of the week I work out after work. I run or cycle. I spend time with my kids from about 7-10 pm every night.

JenniferHow does one become a morning person? 

Craig: I’m not one. You just set the alarm and get up. Eventually, it becomes easier.

JenniferBesides exercise, what do you do?

Craig: I’m on the Board of Advisors for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.  We are trying to get more young people involved in coming to the Symphony, so you should come out.

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