by Andy Perrin
Many believe law graduates have two career options: working in a law firm or working in a government office. Students flock to top tier schools, all hoping to score that special networking connection that will land them their dream job.
For those who find those options limiting, 2005 University of Florida Levin College of Law alumna Sarah Collins provides a reassuring example of the alternative opportunities available to UF Law graduates.
Collins’ early career path was fairly traditional. She spent her summers as an intern and eventually earned a position practicing tax and estate law at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. Collins then received her LL.M. in Taxation at UF Law before starting work in tax and estates and trusts at Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP (known as Locke Lord LLP as of January 2015 after a merger between Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP and Locke Lord LLP).
After following the traditional path, a new opportunity fell into Collins’ lap. A former colleague from her first job offered Collins a position as a JP Morgan wealth advisor – an offer she had to take.
Wealth advisors are responsible for both domestic and international prospects and clientele. Collins works in a team that oversees the Mexican market in addition to working individually to help clients, who invest at least $15 million in the U.S. markets, navigate the legal intricacies of the U.S. tax system.
Collins emphasized that the legal research skills she honed at UF Law were essential in her new position as a wealth advisor. Therefore, even when Collins lacked experience early on, she still knew where to look for answers.
“I think that’s the real training you get in law school, not that you’re going to come out knowing everything about, say, employment law, but you’re going to know how to find the answers,” she explained.
This has helped her whenever non-lawyers ask her questions because answering basic legal questions is second-nature.
Collins is not alone in realizing the broad spectrum of use for her legal skills as she finds other UF alumni practicing in Florida in places she did not expect. One time, Collins found herself in a meeting with a Mexican tax advisor who earned his LL.M. in Taxation from UF Law.
“I ended up referring him business and vice versa and [still] talk to him about issues on Mexican tax law,” she said.
While Collins is now working in private banking, she knows “this is a way to use my law background and training outside of the typical law firm.”
Though she does not specifically provide tax advice to her clients, she helps spot and resolve issues they will encounter while investing in the U.S. One of her favorite aspects of her job is cultivating close relationships with her clients. Not only are clients gaining valuable insight on tax law, they also share fascinating stories about their lucrative careers as well.
When it comes down to it, Collins suggests surrounding yourself with good people, looking for interesting work and keeping an open mind, because that is when one learns the most.