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McDermott & Miller CPAs explain: cross-training pays off in in the professional world 

When customers become clients, they have a more vested interest in the business they are working with. In turn, the client expects the business to provide the best service possible. With competition at an all-time high and the economy booming, it is a must for businesses to examine their offerings and be sure they are not only meeting the needs of customers, but also adding value. The value is in the “secret sauce” that keeps a client happy, not just satisfied. It may be in the extraordinary product or the experience of the service.

One way of achieving this goal is to be sure your team can give as much expertise to a client as possible. Is there a benefit to having cross-trained employees? Is there value in bringing in industry experts to educate customers? What about professionals who are dual pedigreed in your business? Read below for the testimony of one business with this offering.

McDermott and Miller has a talented team. One contribution to this is three CPAs who also have legal degrees. They are not practicing attorneys, but they are able to go above and beyond the call of duty while working for clients. Here is how they provide the added value at their firm.

How has your legal background led you to be a better CPA?

Joshua Berns

My knowledge allows me to identify potential issues in client situations more readily than someone without such a background. For example, when assisting with establishing a business entity or formulating an estate plan, I understand the reasons behind alternatives proposed by clients’ attorneys or other professionals and can advise on the most tax efficient method of accomplishing the underlying goals.

Richard Lurk

The research and statutory/regulatory interpretation training have proven invaluable. The internal revenue code and its accompanying regulations are so vast that no one can possibly know even a substantial part of everything out there. However, with advanced research and interpretation skills, it is very likely that the answers to even the most complicated questions can be found.

Describe a specific situation where your expertise allowed you to go above and beyond in helping a client:

JB: There were a couple opportunities in which the only way to solve a client’s problem was to obtain a private letter ruling from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). To obtain such a ruling, one must review the appropriate procedural guidance issued by the IRS, as well as the substantive tax law on the specific issue, and prepare a formal request. The experience of preparing memoranda in essentially the same format during law school, after researching, analyzing, interpreting and applying information, allowed me to prepare such requests efficiently and successfully.

Explain the benefits of having someone with the legal expertise on staff at a CPA firm:

RL: I can research the issue and come to a well-reasoned and statutorily/case law supported position that the firm and the client will be confident in. It might also be beneficial that with our general understanding of the tax litigation process, we may be able to be more “aggressive” when dealing with IRS or various state DOR representatives.

JB: An individual with a legal education has advanced skills in research and writing, which are vital in a CPA firm in order to provide comprehensive tax advice and articulate such information to a client.

How can other businesses use the model or strategy of having cross-trained professionals?

RL: I would say that most businesses, as businesses, could always benefit from someone who is familiar with not only the technical aspects required for their respective industry or field, but also has a basic understanding of cost management and marginal analysis. After all, all businesses, even so-called non-profits, have to pay their bills and have to make trade-offs in their operations. By utilizing someone who understands this within the business’ planning hierarchy, many problems can be avoided in the first instance, and areas thought to be performing well can be improved upon.

JB: The business is sure to benefit because such an individual understands the issues in the field of the business’s practice, but in addition can provide insight into other matters that may be of concern in certain client situations. This is helpful to the business because it can more readily understand the full context of clients’ situations and satisfy its duties to clients plus alert clients to other issues that may need to be addressed, perhaps by other professionals, which is appreciated by clients.

Bob Sondag: In my 40 years of experience as an accountant with a law degree, I know that the existence of the accountants with a legal background is a help for all of the accountants in the firm because it gives the other accountants without a legal background someone to talk to regarding legal matters and transactions. It improves the working relationship with the client’s attorney and there can be savings in fees to the client because of the legal background and experience of these individuals.

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