American Barrister®
American Barrister®

"Of Counsel" Assistance to Law Firms in Accounting-Intensive Litigation by Robert J. Olejar, Esq., CPA, CFE

The fundamental problem in accounting-intensive litigation is the decision makers in charge of the litigation, the lawyers, the judge and the jury, are not trained accountants, and have vey little, if any, accounting, and even less, auditing knowledge. Robert J. Olejar, Esq., CPA, CFE is an experienced trial lawyer, forensic accountant and auditor. He is available to assist other lawyers prepare litigation involving accounting issues, the interpretation of accounting records, and/or gathering and presenting voluminous accounting information at trial.  This provides more control over the pre-trial process and generates more revenues to the law firm, as work which would otherwise be “farmed out” to a forensic accountant, or simply not done, becomes an integral part of the law firm’s internal trial preparation. At trial, he can serve as first or second chair at the discretion of counsel of record.

This requires a thorough understanding of accounting principles, auditing procedures, professional standards, substantive law and the rules of court and evidence, plus one essential element, actual trial experience. The overwhelming majority of attorney-CPAs practice in tax or trusts and estates; most have never personally seen the inside of a real courtroom; many spend their entire careers at accounting firms and never practice law at all. The experience of most forensic accountants is limited to specifically assigned pieces of the case; most are in court only as long as needed to testify. And, as noted below, most non-CPA trial lawyers do not know what accounting records to look for, where to look for them, and whether what they’ve received is sufficient to advance their case-in-chief or for cross-examination.

In the courtroom, the problem is compounded and the major players, those in charge of the trial, the lawyers and the judge, are confounded. The lawyers need help asking accounting-related questions and interpreting the answers; the court needs a lawyer who can explain how the accounting records, or the lack thereof, impact the legal issues before it. What the trial needs is a lawyer fluent in accounting and an accountant fluent in legalese. In other words, an interpreter, who can boil it all down to plain English, so the jury can wrap their heads around it all and come to the right verdict.

What sets Mr. Olejar apart is he can coordinate the legal and accounting issues into one cohesive and persuasive argument to advance the theory of the case from pleadings to verdict and beyond. As a former forensic accountant and auditor, he can ascertain what accounting records are or should be available, and the likely source, be it the adverse party, third-parties, including government agencies, or the client. Every trial lawyer knows there is no more powerful evidence than favorable evidence obtained from the adverse party or disinterested third-parties. This forms the basis for all accounting-related discovery efforts, responses and motions, motions in limine and other pre-trial motions and trial preparation. As an attorney on the trial team, he cannot be deposed and his worksheets and calculations are protected by the attorney work-product privilege. Nor can he be sequestered at trial, allowing him to observe the direct testimony of adverse witnesses first-hand and prepare questions for the cross-examination of adverse expert and lay witnesses in the courtroom while they are testifying. Mr. Olejar can conduct cross-examination or pass the questions to lead counsel, at his or her discretion. The accounting records are woven into the client's position, providing the court with a persuasive legal argument seamlessly supported by competent accounting evidence.

The result is law firms and their clients receive quality litigation services in financial and other accounting-intensive litigation, provided effectively and cost-efficiently by leveraging the separate experiences of a trial lawyer and forensic accountant/auditor, so that the client receives the benefit of both disciplines at reasonable attorney-only rates. Two experienced professionals for the price of one is a bargain.

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Phone: (201) 400-8351

Robert J. Olejar, Esq. CPA, CFE
Managing Member

American Barrister® LLC


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