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Justin Stone - Senior Manager - State and Local Tax Controversy at Amazon

Alumni spotlight

Justin Stone

Senior Manager - State and Local Tax Controversy at Amazon

Alumnus Justin Stone moved in-house to Amazon after two years as a State and Local Tax Associate in our New York office. Working for the world’s largest retailer means innovation and creativity is encouraged at all levels – even for a tax lawyer, as he explains.

How did your in-house move come about?

I was seconded to Amazon’s State and Local Tax group to assist with controversy and then was offered the opportunity to stay permanently. So I decided to take it.

Can you tell us about your current role?

Yes, I can. I’m responsible for all state and local tax controversy (litigation) except property tax for Amazon.com.

How would you describe the in-house transition after leaving private practice?

There are lots of differences when you go in-house because you’re now the decision-maker and are working mostly with non-lawyers. You have to learn how to use your legal knowledge and communicate your recommendations and risk mitigation effectively to the business. It’s very exciting.

What impact did the firm have on you as a lawyer?

My time at Eversheds Sutherland helped build my confidence as an attorney.

My time at Eversheds Sutherland helped build my confidence as an attorney. I joined the firm after leaving an environment that was not positive – Eversheds Sutherland gave me opportunities to grow, recognize my success, and helped develop growth areas.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of going in-house?

Think about what in-house lawyers have to do and how you can help them. Not only will this make you a better attorney at a firm, but it’ll prepare you for becoming an in-house attorney if you decide to go that route.

What do you value from external counsel?

I value counsel that thoroughly analyze my issues in the context of my business. Far too often external counsel acts as a conduit for communication – but what we really want is clear advice, the pros and cons of decisions we have to make, and how these issues fit in the bigger picture.

Internally, we need to support our decisions and we lean on our external counsel to help provide that support.

What's the best career advice you've ever received?

Once you learn to anticipate your partner’s needs, you become invaluable to keeping matters moving. That will ultimately help towards maintaining strong relationships across a firm’s client base.

Learn to anticipate the needs of your customers.

For example, as a law firm associate, one of your customers is the partner. Once you learn to anticipate your partner’s needs, you become invaluable to keeping matters moving. That will ultimately help towards maintaining strong relationships across a firm’s client base.

It’s now over a year since you joined Amazon. Has it lived up to expectations?

I would say it has exceeded my expectations. The central part of Amazon’s culture allows me take ownership of my role and implement ideas that advance the company, even if the ideas are outside the box.

One of the benefits is that it’s a unique company in a variety of businesses, so how I practice law must also be unique. Each day I’m challenged with interesting issues and work with an incredibly talented, diverse tax group.

 

Once you learn to anticipate your partner’s needs, you become invaluable to keeping matters moving. That will ultimately help towards maintaining strong relationships across a firm’s client base.