Say you are a family law attorney with a high-asset divorce client. He told you during your initial consultation that he owns a family business. He also told you that it would pose no problems with regard to his divorce because his wife has never worked for the company, nor has she ever been particularly interested in it. Now he comes to you in a panic. She just informed him that her attorney told her she is entitled to half his business, and that is what she now wants.
You know virtually nothing about business valuation, economic analysis, and other specialized financial areas because these things have never before come up in your practice. What do you do? Increase his legal fees to pay for somehow getting you up to speed in these areas? The American Bar Association cautions attorneys that this is unethical. Refer him to another attorney? Say good-bye to your high-asset client – who likely will never call you again for other family law needs. Call another attorney yourself whom you believe to be experienced in these financial areas and ask if (s)he would like to co-represent your client with you and split the legal fees? Say good-bye to at least half of your attorney’s fees. Try to find your own financial experts and require your client to pay them as part of the expenses involved in your divorce representation? This option, too, is far from ideal.
The ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Responsibility state that as an attorney, your competence is assumed. You cannot use your lack of experience as a defense if a dissatisfied client sues you for malpractice or makes a Bar complaint against you.
The sad truth, however, is that your law school education taught you what to do and maybe even why you should do it, but it did not teach you how to do the things you need to do to be a competent attorney who attracts, retains, and gets referrals from high-asset clients. While no lawyer is expected to know everything about every law practice area, potential clients are becoming much more sophisticated. They don’t just “fee shop” anymore. They are looking for a one-stop law firm where they can have confidence that you can and will provide the full range of services necessary to successfully resolve their problems.
Become a Certified Financial Litigator
Attorneys in over 10 states have found that becoming a Certified Financial Litigator solves the problem of their lack of financial knowledge and skill by providing it to them. The CFL designation on their websites and business cards assures their clients and potential clients that they have completed a detailed course and passed a rigorous examination that gives them the financial skills to complement their legal skills.
The CFL course is designed specifically for attorneys and taught by JDs, CPAs, CFAs, MBAs, PhDs and other experts in their respective fields. While CFL stands for Certified Financial Litigator, you need not be a personal injury attorney or other litigator to benefit from this course. Family law and estate planning practitioners likewise will benefit, as will other attorneys whose practices keep them mostly out of the courtroom.
American Academy of Certified Financial Litigators
The AACFL is an educational institution dedicated to enhancing the legal profession through advanced financial education. Its mission is to provide innovative financial training programs designed to increase the financial knowledge of attorneys who deal with financial issues as part of their practice. Today, that includes virtually every practice area, especially since passage of the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that affects virtually every American in one way or another. AACFL membership is open to attorneys, judges, educators and students. Only AACFL members can take the CFL course and examination and become a Certified Financial Litigator.
CFL Course Contents
The CFL course covers a wide range of financial topics including the following:
- Accounting for Attorneys
- Financial Statement Analysis
- The Anatomy of Tax Returns and Tax Documents
- Tax Return Analysis
- Understanding Investments
- Compensation Issues
- Business Valuation
- Forensic Accounting
- Economic Analysis for Attorneys
- Income Available for Support Purposes
- Lost Profits and Lost Wages
- How to Cross-Examine a Financial Expert
- Preparing Targeted Document Requests for Financial Data
Knowing how hectic your life can be as an attorney, the AACFL offers you three different ways to take the CFL course:
- CFL Online, On Demand on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device
- CFL Live Online on your computer
- CFL Custom Training at your law firm or other location of your choice
Effective Marketing Tool
Once you attain your CFL certification, you will find it to be an effective marketing tool for attracting new high-asset clients and retaining those you currently have. Having the CFL logo on your website, business cards, possibly even your stationery gives your clients and prospective clients objective evidence of your financial knowledge and skill.
In addition, CFL certification enhances your credibility with judges and members of the legal community. They know you know what you are talking about, that they can trust what you say, and that you will not waste their time haggling about financial issues between your client and theirs in conferences, emails, or the courtroom.
AACFL membership not only gives you the opportunity to obtain the coveted CFL certification, but also allows you to network with industry leaders and access up-to-date financial information and resources. At a personal level, your CFL certification will increase your self-confidence in taking on and successfully handling complex cases that require sophisticated financial knowledge. Contact the American Academy of Certified Financial Litigators today to get started.