It was a sprawling and complex piece of litigation, and the attorneys involved faced a series of questions that could only be answered by specialists with deep forensic and investigative expertise.
How would they determine the value of damages based upon profits earned by a family-run business over the course of decades? How could they properly value the business at the center of the case? To get the information they needed would require sifting through a mountain of documents and data and translating the material into a format that would be useful. How would they achieve this, and how could they transform their evidence into a compelling story that would survive courtroom challenges from opposing counsel and persuade jurors and a judge?
To tackle these questions, counsel would need experts across multiple financial investigation disciplines. They would need an economic damages expert, an expert in business valuation, and a forensic technology expert to help find and present the information.
Given the challenges, counsel initially thought they needed to hire several firms or a large national or international accounting firm to handle the work. Instead, they chose us, a financial investigation boutique with a unique collaborative approach that allows our subject-matter experts to work seamlessly across practices to deliver services one might expect from multiple firms or a global accounting giant.
A SILO-BUSTING PHILOSOPHY
At many larger professional services firms, practices tend to be siloed. Information that could help clients rarely travels outside of a practice group, and specialists in one practice may have only a vague awareness of the capabilities offered in another.
Members of our team have had experience working at large national and global firms, and understand how the size of an enterprise and its corporate culture can inhibit individual partners from making recommendations across practices. A client, for example, working with a global accounting firm’s audit practice may need state and local tax help. When the client asks their auditors who they should contact in the firm’s state and local tax practice, however, they are likely to meet with an “I don’t know”—or, even worse, “check the website.”
At a boutique firm like FSS, professionals have specific subject-matter expertise, and the more intimate size of the firm allows us to gain a far deeper understanding of the capabilities and strengths of other practices. We have distilled our firm to five practice areas—fraud examination, lost profits and damages, litigated business valuation, forensic technology and accounting malpractice—with each designed to complement the other.
Moreover, our firm culture specifically emphasizes collaboration and client service. If a professional is discussing a potential assignment with one of his or her clients and recognizes the client would be best served by another practice, the professional will proactively recommend that practice to their client.
WHAT COLLABORATION MEANS FOR COUNSEL
Our approach is not unlike that of a litigation-focused boutique law firm. The best litigation boutiques have the capacity and expertise to take on large, multifaceted cases and often compete with elite Am Law 100 firms for their work.
Similarly, FSS is called upon to handle large investigative and forensic accounting matters that, at first glance, may seem more likely to go to a larger firm. Again, the key is collaboration. Because our practices are integrated, our team is able to effectively work together to offer multiple areas of expertise in a single case.
Collaboration on our part helps counsel manage litigation in a number of significant ways:
1. Greater Efficiency. For counsel, managing experts from multiple firms can be a distracting chore. Relying upon one firm for a number of financial investigation tasks gives counsel a partner who can lead that part of the engagement and coordinate and focus investigation and accounting tasks. And from an administrative standpoint, the law firm has a single bill to review rather than spending time and effort managing several invoices.
2. Reduced Expenses. Just as at law firms, larger accounting firms are likely to charge a higher hourly rate than a smaller firm. In our case, lower overhead and collaboration among our professionals means we are able to offer big firm services and expertise at smaller firm rates.
3. Quality Control. Relying upon experts from multiple firms can result in varying degrees of quality in financial investigations and testimony. Working together internally, our experts are communicating with and educating each other. This can eliminate issues such as inconsistent expert testimony that can undermine a case.
4. Fending Off Challenges. In our experience, deploying experts from the same firm can help attorneys defeat challenges from opposing counsel. The first of our experts to testify may receive a grilling from opposing counsel questioning everything they have done in their careers. Given our level of competence and experience, however, challenges of this sort usually fail. Once opposing counsel has failed to knock out one of our experts, we have found that they are far less likely to waste time pursuing a similar effort against our other testifying experts.
5. Reduced Risk. Litigation can be a high-risk, high-stakes affair. Controlling expenses, ensuring the quality of testimony, improving efficiency, and short-circuiting motions to challenge have the overall effect of reducing the risk for counsel and their client of an adverse litigation outcome.
At many firms, accountants dabble in forensic technology, business valuation, or in calculating damages. At FSS, however, our team consists of true experts often with decades of experience in their given practice areas. This means counsel can have a high-degree of confidence in the competence of our professionals. And because our practices are integrated and our team is seamlessly collaborating, attorneys and their clients can take advantage of this expertise all under one roof—and improve their chances of achieving a successful litigation result.