Is choosing a tax LLM program the same as choosing a JD program? Not exactly. Unlike a law school's JD program, the tax LLM focuses solely on tax, thus all tax LLMs will have generally the same curricula. So when you're choosing between tax LLM programs, you'll have a shorter list of factors to weigh, including tuition, tax-related extracurriculars, number of full-time tax faculty and, of course, prestige.
However, resources for prospective students looking for such information are somewhat limited. Although school websites provide a lot of important information, they're often outdated or incomplete. In addition, the majority of law school rankings evaluate schools based on their JD program, so they're not much help either. And though U.S. News and others produce specialty academic rankings, they don't always tell the whole story.
Luckily, TaxProf blogger Paul L. Caron and others have published "Pursuing a Tax LLM Degree: Where?" an article that not only outlines all of the important decision factors, but also provides the relevant information for TaxProf's top 13 tax LLM programs and advice for how to interpret it. The TaxProf rankings--like those of U.S. News--are based primarily on reputation, and are thereby a great source of information on a program's prestige. For the ranking, tax faculty members, directors and administrators of tax programs and other tax scholars and academics scored their peer schools.
"Pursuing a Tax LLM Degree: Where?" is a nearly complete resource for prospective tax LLMs. All it needs is the insider perspective, reviews from current students and alumni, which you can get from Vault.com, as well as from on-campus visits. The TaxProf Top Tax LLM list is very diverse, so the student experience may vary wildly--attending school in New York City is very different from attending in Denver or Houston. Though many tax LLM program admissions are still open for another month, you should probably wait until fall to apply if you're just starting now. That way you can make sure to investigate each program and find the one that's right for you.
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