VOL. 127 | NO. 12 | Thursday, January 19, 2012
Memphis Law Talk
Divorce Atty. Mason Writes Forensic Accounting Book
By Bill Dries
Memphis attorney Miles Mason Sr., founder of Miles Mason Family Law Group PLC, wishes he had a better answer for what made him decide to become an attorney.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
“It’s because of the conflict,” he said. “I would love to give you an esoteric, philosophical answer to this, but I don’t have one. From the great stress of a divorce comes great opportunity to resolve disputes. But at the end of the day, there’s always the reality of the importance of the divorce lawyer’s will. You have to be tough. You have to be thick-skinned.”
He likens his role to the playground bully.
“Nobody picks on the bully – and very few people pick on divorce lawyers.”
That’s not to say his practice is all courtroom confrontations. Mason has worked hard for more than 10 years to develop the field of forensic accounting.
He recently completed “The Forensic Accounting Deskbook,” published by the American Bar Association in late 2011 and based on 13 years of experience in a field that scarcely existed when he became an attorney in 1994.
“You are talking about a very specific profession within accounting,” he said. “I’m just a divorce lawyer all the time. I’m not a forensic accountant.”
Forensic accounting didn’t have a separate CPA certification until four years ago.
The book is an outgrowth of Mason’s experience as an attorney in complex divorce cases as well as seminars he’s given across the country for accountants as well as other lawyers as part of continuing legal education requirements for attorneys.
“It’s written for a lawyer who’s got an English major background,” Mason said. “It teaches the connective tissue between the law and expert witness qualification and what evidence needs to be presented in court.”
Mason is a certified public accountant who earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama in 1987. After becoming a CPA, he earned his law degree from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 1994.
“The law has always been the same as it relates to forensic accounting. … You have to present evidence through an expert witness. That’s the only way you can get it into evidence,” he said.
That’s true not just in divorce cases where assets are in question. It’s true in workers’ compensation or injury claims.
“How much did a person lose in earnings because they were injured? How do you quantify that? You can use a forensic accountant or a forensic economist,” Mason said. “It’s a very basic core concept and forensic accounting has evolved as the overall maturity of the American economy has evolved. A lot of forensic accountants are also business valuation experts.”
But very few are full-time forensic accountants. Mason knows of just one full-timer in Memphis. And those in the profession, full or part-time, are around age 50 or older.
“The real challenge is to bring in talented folks that want to do it the right way,” said Mason, who has lectured and taught on the subject.
While lawyers are the main audience for his book, forensic accountants are also buying it to get an idea of what to expect in the courtroom from the attorneys reading the book.
Mason is also blunt about his opinion of where those trying to develop and promote the profession are going wrong.
He says there is money to be made based on book sales and attendance at conferences and seminars “rather than some type of partnership to create a better industry.”
“You could say the same thing about law and law schools – that law schools are in the business of taking in tuition and graduating students who turn around and donate money,” he said. “I don’t think that’s unique.”