By Chrissie A. Powers, CPA/CFF, CFE, CVA
The warm Ohio weather has kids playing outside in the sandbox at the playground. In the sandbox, the kids are building roads, mud pies and sandcastles. Then, one kid comes over and steps on your child's sandcastle. All of his hardwork gone and he suddenly wants to throw some sand. As a parent, you step in to defuse the situation and help them learn from life's lessons. Defusing the situation means being transparent about the outcome for everyone involved. "Play Nice in the Sandbox."
This analogue also relates to professionals in business. Attorneys often hire financial experts to assist on their litigated cases. It is in the best interest of all involved to play nice in the sandbox together. If we work together, we can accomplish more by building a bigger, stronger sandcastle, resulting in a win-win for everyone. How can attorneys help financial experts you ask?
Be transparent with all issues of the case from the beginning. This allows the financial expert to know exactly where your legal argument is headed and determine the best strategy in preparing the financial analysis.
Be forthcoming with how you will use the expert's report and schedules. If the financial expert understands what counsel is trying to accomplish with the financial analysis, the expert may have an alternate approach to obtain the result more cost effectively.
Engage the financial expert sooner. This will allow the financial expert to assist with requesting relevant financial documents, weigh in on a preliminary assessment, identify financial issues, be a part of the case strategy, and be better prepared for testimony. When retained after discover deadlines have lapsed, the expert's financial analysis may include a lot of assumptions, as the relevant documents may not have been requested.
Provide documents in a complete and organized fashion. This will allow the financial expert to be efficient, which saves the client money. It is important to note that electronic files are preferred as the accounting world is becoming paperless and going green.
Reach out to the financial expert. More frequent updates and communication from counsel or their office are welcomed. This ensures the expert is aware of any deadlines and the current status of the case.
Be available. Make yourself available to the financial expert, so the expert is more efficient in their work. Return their calls or e-mails regarding additional questions or additional record requests within forty-eight hours, if possible.
Advise as soon as you realize additional schedules are needed. Most mistakes are made when people are in a hurry. The financial expert greatly appreciates being timely informed when additional financial schedules are needed and it will allow them to plan accordingly. However, it is understood that this isn't always possible.
Timely share testimony questions which were prepared for your retained financial expert. This will prevent the expert from being blindsided by retaining counsel. The expert may suggest additional questions to be asked, on direct, to educate the trier of fact. Provide the testimony questions at least one week in advance to allow adequate review and preparation time.
Prepare your financial expert prior to their court testimony or deposition. Retaining counsel's legal theory of where opposing counsel is going can be very helpful to the financial expert when preparing for testimony.
Timely share the testimony or deposition questions for the opposing financial expert with your retained financial expert. There may be additional questions needed to clarify a specific accounting, tax or valuation issue. Often follow up questions are necessary to the original question that was asked.
Now, who's ready to play nice in the sandbox? If you have questions about retaining a financial expert on a litigated case, don't hesitate to contact us at 614-745-5192.