How I Got My Estate Planning Job: Rylee McDermott, Associate at Van Cott, Bagley, Cornwall & McCarthy, P.C.

How I Got My Estate Planning Job:  Rylee McDermott, associate at Van Cott, Bagley, Cornwall & McCarthy, P.C.

This week, Career Brief features an S.J. Quinney alum who recently received an LL.M. in Taxation from New York University Law School and is now working at a local law firm.


What do you do?

I am an associate attorney in the Tax & Estate Planning Group of Van Cott, Bagley, Cornwall & McCarthy.  My practice focuses on sophisticated estate planning, estate and trust administration, charitable giving, and tax-exempt organizations.  In my first month of working here I have already worked on a variety of interesting estate planning issues.

Where are you from and where did you go to law school?

I am from South Jordan, Utah and I graduated from the S.J. Quinney College of Law in 2011.

Where did you go for your LL.M?

I went to NYU to complete an LL.M. in Taxation and I graduated in May of 2012.

What kind of activities did you do in law school?

During law school I focused a lot on my studies so I would be able to feel confident about my law school performance.  I was also a Quinney Fellow, the Executive Footnote Editor of the Utah Environmental Law Review, and a T.A. for Professor Richards.

How did you first make contact with your employer and how did you get this job?

I decided that I wanted to be an estate planner during my 2L year, so I began to focus on contacting the estate planning groups of all the firms in Utah as well as other states.  From there I came into contact with Van Cott and I kept in contact with them for the next several years while I was completing my J.D. and LL.M.  When I was close to graduating from NYU, Van Cott had an opening and since I had kept in touch with them over the years they interviewed me for the position and I was hired a short time later.

Why did you decide to get an LL.M. and what are the benefits of having this degree?

After I sent out a lot of emails to various estate planners in Salt Lake City I had several informational interviews with some firms downtown (and even one out of state) and they all told me the same thing, if I wanted to become an estate planner I needed to get an LL.M.  They had several reasons for this: it would show firms that I was serious about tax law, it would provide me with a year of intense training in tax law and I would enter the firm with a better understanding of the tax code than if I were a 3L, and it would help me ride out the poor economy for another year.  They also told me that NYU was the top LL.M. in Tax program, and that if I could go there, I should jump at the chance.  So, I applied to NYU and was fortunate enough to get accepted.  I decided to get an LL.M. because it would make me more competitive in a tough legal market.  As everyone knows, getting a job at a firm in Salt Lake is not easy.  Once I told firms downtown that I was going to attend NYU and receive an LL.M. in Tax it opened up a lot of doors to me that were previously not even there.  Having an LL.M. in Tax from NYU has made a huge difference in my career opportunities.

What tips and advice do you have for job-seeking S.J. Quinney law students and alums?

My advice would be to not be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and start making contacts with attorneys downtown.  During my 2L year I realized that there wasn’t a lot of jobs to go around so I started sending out emails and trying to meet different attorneys in the estate planning realm.  So, whatever type of law you decide to practice, it is a good idea to try and meet attorneys who do what you want to do.  They are the ones who will be able to tell you what kind of a market Utah has for whatever kind of law you want to do.  I spoke with a lot of attorneys that I had never met before and they were all kind and very helpful.  They understand what kind of legal market we are in, and most of them are willing to lend a helping hand.  They can’t always give you a job, but if you keep up those connections you may be able to land a job a few years down the road.