Victoria Lee, Esq. Shares Her Unconventional Path to Becoming a Tax Lawyer, Championing Black Women’s Representation

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Victoria SCLBecoming a lawyer is no easy feat, much more so for people from disadvantaged populations. While ethnic and gender representation in the law profession has been improving over the past years, the average American lawyer is still a white male. According to the American Bar Association, 39% of lawyers are women as of 2023 and Black lawyers currently make up only 5% of the profession, far less than the proportion of Black people in the US population (13.6%).

A Black woman coming from a non-privileged background, Victoria Lee, Esq. has triumphed over the odds to become a tax lawyer and senior managing attorney at national tax law firm Segal, Cohen & Landis. Tax is a relatively uncommon specialization among US lawyers, making Lee one of the few experts who is able to better reach out to a historically underserved segment of society.

Born and raised in California, Lee moved to Florida to attend university, but she was only able to complete the first year because she could no longer afford the tuition. She went to a local college to study criminal justice while working to support her studies. She always had a dream of being a lawyer, but she believed it was unachievable due to the lack of representation she experienced growing up.

“As the first person to finish college in my immediate family and the first attorney in my entire family, I did not see many examples of people like me taking on this profession when I was growing up, so it initially felt out of reach,” she says. “I believed only people from a wealthy background, whose parents donated to Ivy League schools, were the ones who could go to law school. A week before graduation, one of my professors asked what I was planning to do, and I told her about my dream of becoming a lawyer. She said that it was still possible, and she helped me prepare for the LSAT.”

Even though she was behind most of her peers in terms of preparation, Lee passed the test and started applying to various law schools, eventually receiving a full-ride scholarship to one. However, due to some predatory practices at the now-defunct law school, she lost her scholarship and ended up having to pay full price. Despite this, she refused to be discouraged from her dream.

A huge believer in justice reform, Lee initially wanted to practice criminal law to help defend the less represented and underserved sectors of society. While she realized that she was not built for such a practice due to her sensitive nature, she still wanted to help others. This is when the opportunity to practice tax law came her way. In her third year of law school, Lee took on a class related to gift and estate tax as it was the only class that suited her schedule. Despite tax not even being on her radar, she did well, getting the highest marks and setting the standard in her class. Wanting to move back to her home state for its more diverse population and legal profession, Lee looked at visiting student programs at California law schools. Lee continued to specialize in tax law and was accepted to Loyola Law School’s visiting student program, a well-respected institution in California. This is where Lee went on to obtain her LLM in taxation.

With a recommendation from her program’s director, Lee interviewed and was accepted at Segal, Cohen & Landis, where she has been working for close to a decade. She mostly works with small and medium entrepreneurs, helping them to dispute their tax issues at both state and federal levels.

An example of Lee’s many legal successes includes defending her client against the government’s initial assertion of an additional tax of $13 million and reducing this by more than $7 million. She was also able to obtain a settlement at the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, reducing a client’s sales tax measure by over $2 million. This demonstrates how Lee is thriving in the tax law profession and getting exceptional results for her clients, despite being one of the few women of color working within this white, male-dominated industry.

“I fell in love with tax because it’s very intriguing and I love solving puzzles. I am also passionate about helping people, and I want to help them understand a complex subject matter and feel empowered by the knowledge,” Lee says. “A person can’t truly scale their business unless they know the tax exposure associated with their actions. What I’ve found in my practice is that ignorance is very expensive. There’s a saying that people don’t know what they don’t know, and, sadly, when it comes to tax, people only find out about it when they have a huge tax bill staring them in the face.”

Many people think of tax as either scary, boring, or hard to understand. It’s Lee’s mission to change that, so she is currently writing an eBook that will serve as a manual for artists and business owners to help entrepreneurs navigate tax issues. The book will serve as a starting point for entrepreneurs and provide guidance on how to navigate the tax system, depending on what industry they’re in.

“I have a knack for simplifying things and helping people understand the complexities of tax,” she says. “The tax code looks like an entirely foreign language for most entrepreneurs and non-lawyers. I believe I can make the subject matter more relatable and accessible. Knowing about tax isn’t something just for the wealthy, and it’s not a political bargaining chip. Tax affects everyone, and it is something foundational that everyone should know.”

“Click Here to view the original article By Christ Gallagher”

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