Many attorneys think that the forensic accountants are simply fraud investigators, yet that isn’t entirely a true statement. Forensic accounting is really much more than dealing with the numbers.
We live in a new world that deals with the issues of financial collapses, economic downturns, growing occurrences of fraud, a litigious society and an expectation of quick results from peers, clients – and even friends and family. Attorneys have benefited from the business that this new world has generated, as well as the increase in government and regulatory scrutiny.
Attorneys know that there is a value proposition to be presented to a client when working in tandem with a forensic accountant. Together, the attorney and forensic accountant can coordinate research needs and interpret the details uncovered. The combination of attorney and forensic accountant will help analyze complicated financial data, and will persuasively and effectively communicate results with a high degree of credibility. A maximum amount of team work is necessary for the just and proper results for the client whether it is in the advisory area, in a pre-litigation or a litigation scenario. Litigation often involves multiple, complex accounting and legal issues that overlap and intertwine. So, in this overly convoluted world, a client can maximize benefits, and minimize downsides, by retaining both an attorney and forensic accountant.
Working together, attorneys and forensic accountants can bring about optimal solutions. Clients that work with one and exclude the other are putting themselves at risk, and subject themselves to possible breakdowns. So, when do the attorneys and the forensic accountants best work together? According to the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) and the ABA (American Bar Association), the areas of specialty where it is considered to be wise, sound and necessary to work together include financial statement representation, economic damages calculations, valuations, bankruptcy/insolvency/reorganization, fraud prevention/detection/response, family law and computer forensic analysis. It seems that all these specialties embrace the business that is generated from the new world we live in.
Much has been written, discussed and argued about where to draw the line between attorneys and forensic accountants. Nonetheless, in the new world, the clients are a lot wiser, knowledgeable and expense intolerant. Therefore, it is not about drawing the line, but rather working on how to erase the line between the professions. Eliminating the line will allow true sportsmanship to be displayed, and will net the client just and correct results.
How should the attorney and the forensic accountant work together? First, and foremost, they should both get involved at the early stage. The earlier they start working together, the more streamlined the process can be, both in terms of time and money. This is extremely important in this combination of professions, and the good job done by both, will be reflected in the bill and outcome for the client. Second, they must communicate constantly, effectively and clearly. In sum, although both the attorney and the forensic accountant can operate under their own independent roles, it works much better when they both agree that the cause for the client is a common cause.