The Law School Magazine The New York University School of Law

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NYU Grad Tops Texas Bar

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Sanjeev Ayyar (LL.M. ’04)When Sanjeev Ayyar (LL.M. ’04) prepared to take the Texas Bar Exam, he had every right to be confident. After all, he had already passed the test in California, New York, and New Jersey. But instead of taking it easy, Ayyar, who had just finished the LL.M. program at the NYU School of Law, hit the books.

“Fear is a great motivator,” he said. “Even though I’ve taken four bar exams, I’ve given 100 percent to each one. It’s an all-or-nothing kind of test.”

His hard work paid off. Ayyar scored higher on the exam than anyone else in Texas. He was honored with a tour of the state’s Supreme Court, where he was asked to speak at the swearing-in ceremony for new Bar members. Ayyar’s speech focused on the many benefits of practicing law. “We often hear that it’s fashionable to be frustrated with the many demands and pressures of being a lawyer and trying to maintain life’s balance,” he said. “But as we reflect and gain perspective, we recognize that it is a privilege.”

The first lawyer in his immigrant family, the 29-year-old Ayyar is quick to attribute his success to his support network. He also gives full credit to his wife, Sandhya, a tax accountant who passed the CPA exam, for her understanding when he studied through the night and came home “tired and cranky.”

Ayyar spent his undergraduate years at Carnegie Mellon University, then graduated cum laude from University of California, Hastings College of the Law with a J.D. in 2000. He took his first bar exam in California before securing a job at Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich, a Silicon Valley law firm. Upon his acceptance to the NYU School of Law in January 2003 for an LL.M. in taxation, he prepared for possible employment by taking the New Jersey and New York bar exams, but never practiced in either state. Instead, he focused on his education.

“If you want to do an LL.M. in taxation, clearly NYU is number one without a doubt,” Ayyar said.

Currently practicing at Cox & Smith in San Antonio, Ayyar says he feels lucky to have a career that allows him to combine his interest in finance with his natural people skills.

“My undergraduate background is finance-oriented,” he said. “I always liked it, and wanted to have a career in it.”

But his experience in tax law has far surpassed his expectations. “I had the idea of a tax attorney as a guy with green eye shades, crunching numbers,” he said. “But it’s not like that at all. It’s much more fact-specific, and very intellectually demanding.”

It’s also a surprisingly social career, based largely on the ability to communicate clearly. “My job is not about numbers, it’s about people and their businesses. You’re trying to understand them and plan for them, and I find that fascinating. It’s really about the relationships you have with the client.”

Despite achieving the highest bar score in Texas, Ayyar remains modest, insisting, “I’m just glad I passed.”