When I tell people that I’m a lawyer, they usually ask me about law school or what area I specialize in, if any. When I tell people that I’m a lawyer and a CPA, there’s usually a look of complete bafflement. While I’d like to think this stems completely from sheer impressiveness, I know it also stems from confusion. After all, why would someone want to put themselves through both the Bar and CPA Exam? But, as the saying goes, life takes you on the most unexpected journey.
I always knew that I wanted to have a business related degree, but I didn’t know that I wanted to major in accounting or become a CPA until I worked at Bank of America during college. While working there, I learned that you can get to know a lot about a business just by looking at its books and records, such as how they spend their money, what their priorities are, how much profit they make, and what business opportunities are available. But in order to tell that story, you have to understand the numbers, and that’s what accountants do. I graduated with my accounting degree from California State University, Fullerton in 2007.
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Afterwards, I worked at an accounting firm preparing tax returns. After our first busy season, I spoke to my managing partner and emphasized how much I enjoyed the research and planning aspects of taxes. He told me that getting a law degree would be the best way to specialize and advance into higher levels of that type of work. After some consideration, I decided to pursue my law degree and went to Chapman University where I obtained my JD (jurisprudence) as well as my LLM (Master’s of Law in Tax). Following that year, I studied for and passed the CPA Exam.
After law school and obtaining my CPA license, I knew I wanted to begin working in an area of law that had an emphasis on tax. So I looked into doing international tax, state and local tax, etc. After working at different accounting firms, I found that I liked working with high net worth individuals because my research and writing abilities directly affected them. I also got to know these individuals on a more personal level and knew that I was making a difference in their lives. After learning many technical and practical skills from working at several firms for a few years, I decided to open my own practice, the Vuong Law Firm, to focus on estate planning and taxes.
I chose this area of specialization for a couple of reasons. The first being because it combines my expertise of both law and accounting. A lot of the time when people are working on their wills and trusts, you’ll have an accountant sitting on one side and an attorney sitting on the other, both of whom are attempting to dictate the situation, causing conflict between the two. By being both a CPA and lawyer, my ability to understand the numbers as well as the legalities associated with estate planning help me bridge that gap. This makes the planning process easier for my clients who know that I have all their bases covered.
Secondly, I’m genuinely passionate about helping others. Estate planning is so important, yet very few people do it because they don’t know what it is or have misconceptions about what the process entails. As an estate planning lawyer, I have a lot of clients who come in and are too embarrassed to ask what a will and trust are because as adults, we’re just expected to know. I decided to write a children’s book to ease the embarrassment and confusion. Titled Ellie Gets a Will and Trust, the book is about a little girl named Ellie who goes to camp carefree knowing that her toys and friends will be taken care of should anything happen to her.
By writing this book, I wanted to provide a very high level overview of what a will and trust are and offer it as a fun read to my clients who come into my office as I set up their profile. This helps break the ice and also educates parents and children about estate planning in a way that’s fun, interactive, and simplified. Helping my clients understand their family situation and how to plan their estate for themselves and loved ones not only fuels my passion for helping others, but it also makes what I do extremely rewarding.
But getting to where I am today wasn’t easy. A lot of people ask me how I had time to manage a work/life balance while pursuing my law degree and CPA credential. It definitely took some trial and error. After I graduated from Fullerton, I had an entire summer with no obligations, so I decided to sit for the CPA Exam. I passed BEC and REG, but failed AUD twice with a different review course.
At the same time, I was also applying to law school and when I was accepted into Chapman University, I knew that I had to shift my focus and wouldn’t be able to complete all sections of the CPA Exam within the 18 month window. As a result, my BEC and REG scores dropped off. But it all worked out for the best. After I finished my JD and LLM degree, I re-routed my attention back to CPA licensure.
Although I had a lot of doubts as to whether or not I would be able to pass because it had been years since my undergraduate degree, I realized that all I needed was the right road map to accomplish and stick to my goals, which is what led me to Roger CPA Review. The course used every minute so efficiently, and I was actually having fun. Additionally, the flexibility of the online program worked with my schedule and the instructor’s high energy kept me motivated, which was important because at this time, my wife and I just welcomed a baby girl into our family.
As a husband, father, and working professional, the most challenging part was finding time to study for the CPA Exam while having external groups of family and friends understand the amount of effort it entailed. I was normally the first and last person in the office every day, doing lessons before and after work started. When I got home, I would do the practice problems. This continued for 8 months of my life. I took breaks to spend time with my family when I could, and greatly appreciated the helpful support of my wife. We both knew that this was only a temporary, supplemental part of our lives that had to be done until I passed the exam. I think that once you come to that realization, it makes the process much more feasible.
What I’d like others to learn from my success story is to never think that you can’t do something—whether that’s passing the Bar or CPA Exam, or both. Anything is within reach as long as you put the time and effort into it. Just remember that every video lecture you watch and every practice problem you do is for the greater cause and will help you reach your end goal. Many people think that because they’ve been out of college a while or have been in the workforce for too long that they won’t have the knowledge or skills to pass; however, that’s just not the case. If you get good review programs to help you along the way and stick to your road map, all things are possible.
Quan Vuong lives in Southern California with his wife Anh, and two children, Evelyn and Evan. To learn more about his firm and practice areas, visit www.VuongLaw.com.