Life as a Forensic Accountant within a Law Firm

Iain Johnson reflects on his conversation with Adam Bates, Partner and Head of Investigations at leading law firm Joseph Hage Aaronson.

When considering career options, Forensic Accountants seeking a varied workload without the burden of BD targets often find there are limited options within public practice. Most openings feel like a case of ‘same job, different wallpaper’. However, 2016 saw Austin Rose Associates instructed on an increasing number of opportunities for Forensic Accountants within law firms. Discussing this brave new world with prospective candidates usually elicits the response - “I had no idea that was an option - please tell me more!”. This article aims to do that.

Since the first appointment of a forensic accountant by a law firm in 2000, a growing number of legal practices across the City have built in-house forensic teams of ‘shadow experts’ to work alongside their dispute lawyers. No in-house team has grown as quickly or successfully as the one headed by Adam Bates at leading disputes specialist Joseph Hage Aaronson. With 31 years’ distinguished service at KPMG - including 7 years as the Global Forensic Chairman - Adam is well placed to contrast life in accountancy and legal practice.

Adam highlighted what he considers to be some of the key differences as follows:

Greater strategic input
Lawyers are typically instructed first in investigative matters. Being part of the wider legal function allows the forensic team to contribute to the overarching strategy from the outset, rather than purely being used as investigative assets. This provides useful insight into see how the team develop and implement that case strategy. Being part of a unified function also reduces the potential for friction between the legal team and forensic investigators.

Varied workload
There are no one to two year projects forming the sole focus of your workload. Adam and his team enjoy a broad spectrum of work, comprising damage quantification, business valuations, fact finding and investigations, reviewing evidence and interviewing witnesses. The cliché about no two days being the same certainly applies.  In addition, working in a smaller, close knit team has seen an end to big committees which helps speed up the decision making process.

Working, not networking
The Forensic team are involved in new business pitches and are a key component to JHA’s unique service offering. However, at present there are no business development targets due to the firm’s excellent reputation and network. Members of the in-house forensic team are therefore free to fully focus on executing, rather than winning, work.

If you’re still unsure about your next step, perhaps its best to follow a bit of advice from Adam’s own article on his move to JHA:

“Sometimes you need to change your environment to move on in life. Sometimes it is not really clear what the new environment will bring.  Sometimes you just need to jump.”


If this article has piqued your interest, please contact Iain Johnson, Austin Rose's Head of Advisory, to discuss your next possible role.


Monday Mar 13, 2017