What’s stickier than the law these days? The U.S. tax code.
That’s why choosing an accountant for your law firm might be as important as practicing the law itself.
But, before you start flipping through a directory of qualified CPAs, you might try flipping through bar cards instead.
Today, as professional vacancies wane, education has been steadily increasing. As a result, there are more and more lawyers going back to school for an accounting degree.
And, when hired, these dual-degree dynasts count in the column of “most valuable assets” on the books for your firm.
One such professional, Stephen Kantor, belongs to this doubly-qualified group of attorneys who also are certified public accountants. Kantor explained to the Portland Business Journal, “I think an accounting background gives somebody the opportunity to take a more global approach to the representation of a business.”
“As a CPA you really learn how to analyze a business from the inside out and I think too often lawyers learn how to analyze a business from the outside in.”
Not only can your accountant balance the budget, but he can also contribute to your other legal departments—tax, estate planning, or litigation, for example. Whether languages, financial experience, or accounting, in an economic recession, lawyers must all have an additional value add to their firm.
“It was a really good opportunity for me, when I switched over to practicing law, to embrace what CPAs can offer my clients,” says Kantor.
CPA-lawyers offer your clients specialized expertise, and they offer your firm the following:
- Knowledge of taxes, business budgets, and payroll.
- An understanding of the business and daily operations of the field of law
- Versatile job function (accountant, attorney, and litigation consultant in one!)
- Higher degree, so higher billable hours to clients
- Constant and steady stream of work (there will be no lulls for this employee)
Like the idea, but haven’t found the right candidate? Send one of your attorneys back to school. Executive education or night certification to become a public accountant requires money up front, but the effort to train your most valued associates will certainly pay off in the long-term.
Still, be weary of the ethical concerns with such a position. You can’t build an accounting practice and then use it as advertisement for your legal one.
For Kantor, he has chosen a side. Although he’s a CPA, Kantor works as a lawyer—he’s a partner in the Portland law firm Samuels Yoelin Kantor Seymour & Spinrad LLP.
“I stick to the law, although a lot of what I do involves accounting.”
So why can’t your law firm accounting, involve a little bit of law?