Receiving a Request for Services
By Ron J. Anfuso, CPA, ABV, CFF, CDFA, FABFA
When we receive a request for services from an attorney, I do the following:
• Ask for the basic information on the case.
• Get the name of both parties, and who is the petitioner and the respondent.
• Obtain the date of the marriage, separation and case number.
• Perform a conflict-of-interest check.
• Attain a general understanding of the case and what procedures are likely to be needed.
Once we confirm there is no conflict of interest and have determined we have the resources available to take on the case, we create an engagement letter and send it to the attorney.
After the engagement has been started, we organize the files and prepare a document request list. I created a template for this purpose. However, many cases require some customization to ensure an accurate, thorough list.
For example, if a party is a small business owner, our request may include:
• A financial statement.
• Federal and state corporate income tax returns including all attachments.
• Detailed general ledgers and journals, and adjusted journal entries.
• Cash receipts and disbursement journals.
• Payroll journals, compensation records, and federal and state payroll tax returns.
• Monthly bank and brokerage statements, canceled checks and duplicate deposit slips, and all stock or investment securities, including a description, date purchased, cost, and fair market value for the last tax year through the date of production.
• Checkbooks and check registers.
• Paid and unpaid suppliers’ bills, invoices, statements, accounts payable listings, and vendor lists.
• Outside accountant’s work papers and files used or prepared in conjunction with tax or accounting services performed for the business.
• Corporate organizational documents.
• Federal and state detailed depreciation schedules showing original cost, date acquired, the depreciation method used, asset life accumulated prior to depreciation, and current year depreciation expense for all tangible and intangible assets owned by the company.
• A listing of dates and amounts of any loans to and from the business, or any other entity in which one or both spouses have ownership interest, specifics about the loan(s), bank or lender statements, credit card bills, and money owed on cars with percent used for business travel.
• Other loan information as required.
Once the records have been received, we send them to the document management department. The documents and work papers are made accessible to all staff who will be working on the case. I then determine the scope of work and decide who will provide what tasks based on their experience and skill sets.
At the outset, I hold a staff meeting with those who will be working on the case and provide them our instructions and work papers with deadlines for completion. I present an overview of the case, and who will be assigned the various respective tasks so they all know which staff member will be performing what. I then ask for and answer their general questions. They then return to their workspace to review their scope of work. I encourage them to ask specific questions concerning their delegated tasks before they begin their assignments.
I keep track of their work on a daily basis. On days in court, I contact staff members during breaks. We discuss any problems or obstacles and I expect the staff to solve any hindrances even if it requires me or other staff members to get involved. I always strive to keep a positive atmosphere and certainly acknowledge and show my appreciation when staff members exceed my anticipations. I do expect to receive exceptional work.
To keep abreast of the entire scope of forensic accounting for family law, I review the Daily e-briefs each day and study all articles related to forensic accounting. Occasionally, I find new precedents that correlate to the case at hand and may accordingly add or revise portions of my testimony.
Then I finalize my testimony. I am always prepared when I enter the courtroom. I have testified hundreds of times so I am aware of what to expect from opposing counsel and know judges’ expectations. Thus, the opinions I present are typically accepted by judges. I get to the point, provide exactly what needs to be heard to prove my case, and add nothing extraneous. I have been blessed with an outgoing and extroverted personality, and a quick mind that allows me to draw on my knowledge and present testimony in a matter that is easily understood by judges, attorneys, and clients. These virtues allow me to excel under tough cross-examination.
I feel I am so fortunate to have chosen a profession that matches my skill set. I have a great passion for all forensic accounting work. However, I am most zealous about court appearances and feel my expertise and testimonial skills are near or at the top of my profession. Nevertheless, I am still learning and striving for improvement.