How to make the best use of financial experts in your litigation cases
10 questions about a financial expert’s role
INSIGHT ARTICLE |
Financial experts play a key role helping the litigants and the court understand the financial issues involved in litigation matters. Beyond standard accounting and tax issues, financial experts can help attorneys understand a wide range of issues as they prepare trial strategy and can then serve as expert witnesses to communicate those issues in court, including:
- Corporate finance
- Cash flow management
- Forensic accounting
- Business valuations
- Loan compliance
- Business viability
- Management and operations
- Lost profits
Understanding the financial expert’s role
A financial expert’s main role is to educate—to help the attorney understand the financial aspects of a case during trial preparations, and to educate the court at trial. Therefore, the expert’s ability not only to understand the issues, but the ability to communicate them clearly and in understandable language is paramount.
Your expert’s credentials are vital to establishing credibility with the court. Choosing the right expert or experts is driven by the facts and circumstances of your case. Experts are governed by a wide range of rules defining their professional conduct. Certified public accountants are governed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, but financial experts may possess a variety of other designations or certifications that demonstrate their qualifications and which may impose governing concepts upon them, including:
- Certified Fraud Examiner
- Certified Insolvency Reorganization Advisor/Accountant
- Certificate in Distressed Business Valuation
- Accredited Senior Appraiser
- Chartered Financial Analyst
- Certified Financial Planner
- Certified Financial Consultant
- Certified Turnaround Professional
- Certified Management Accountant
Key questions when choosing a financial expert
Consideration of the following questions will help you understand key issues that can help you choose and get the most from your financial expert:
- Will the financial expert be asked to testify as an expert witness or only serve as a litigation consultant?
- Will the financial expert have fair and complete access to all of the pertinent facts necessary to form an independent and objective opinion?
- Does the expert have the appropriate background, qualifications and experience necessary to render an opinion?
- Who is the expert’s client—the attorney or the attorney’s client?
- What privileges will be available to protect work product?
- Does the expert have any material conflicts of interest?
- Will the expert’s investigation affect other aspects of your case, or of other cases?
- Will discoveries be revealed even if they jeopardize other cases?
- How could the expert’s findings affect your trial strategy?
- Will your expert be able to effectively meet the court’s expectations regarding expert testimony, expert reports and expert opinions?
Your financial expert’s most important responsibility is to be honest and objective with the client, the attorney and with the court. Careful, analytical work articulately and persuasively presented can be the difference between winning and losing your case. Understanding the issues will help you to choose the right expert for your litigation matter.