Date posted: 23/01/2018

CAs in the court of law: Why litigation could be the sector for you

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When legal action is taken against an individual or company, it’s the job of a litigation accountant to step in, investigate the matter and provide guidance.

As Director of Corporate Finance at RSM Australia, Nadine Marke is required to probe the intricate details of people's lives and dive into transaction histories for multi-million dollar companies.

Some cases can end up in court and can last the better part of a year, or more. It can be intense, but for Nadine, it's the opportunity to make a significant impact on people's lives that drives her day-to-day.

She was recently engaged to advocate for a client in his divorce settlement, having received an initial offer of $50k. After a deliberated process over 10 months, she was able to help her client walk away with $1M dollars - an amount that will significantly improve his quality of life.

"You can imagine how happy he was, and how grateful. That sense of fulfilment that you get from working in disputes, I think, keeps you going," Nadine says.

Litigation accountants are experts in their field, trusted by the courts to produce unbiased reports and opinions. Nadine’s litigation career has now covered matters from financial loss and family law, to business valuations and more.

Probing into the minute details of a client's financial history is a confronting but necessary aspect of the job. To succeed, Nadine believes litigation support professionals require a personality and personability that buck the accountant stereotype.

A broad exposure to different fields of accounting also helps with the nature of work. Prior to litigation, Nadine's professional background spanned auditing, insolvency and valuations - experiences that have shaped her success in a wide range of litigation matters.

Her exposure to commercial valuations became particularly helpful in a recent matter involving a prominent charity. The organisation had sold property at a significantly undervalued price in a related party transaction. After Nadine's investigation and guidance, the charity walked away with a multi-million-dollar settlement that has changed the organisation's future.

"Even though it’s on the commercial side, we were able to help make a massive impact for this charity as an organisation and what they can now do in the future," Nadine says.

Today's litigators require a wide range of skills to keep up with an industry experiencing technological transformation. The once logistical nightmare of sifting through massive amounts of paper documents is being replaced by digital programs that search documents faster and make building reports easier.

Even with this efficiency, Nadine says successful litigation depends on your ability to construct an argument and distil complex ideas for non-accounting parties. To be considered an expert, acute attention to detail and strong communication skills are essential.

"The client has engaged you to make your argument simple, clear, and to give an opinion. So, if your opinion is a bit woolly, it doesn't help anyone in the long run. Your communication ability is key," she explains.

For Nadine, litigation is the perfect career for someone who loves detailed work, constant learning and making a difference.

"Your personality type has to suit the role that you choose. Litigation is not your standard path in some ways - it is still a fairly niche area - but this means it can be easier to build your own profile in an area that is a less crowded market."