Practice/Industry Group Overview
Wilson Elser is well attuned to the rapid changes that impact the accounting profession. With accountants continually subjected to new standards and regulations, as well as a staggering number of claims brought against them, we provide our clients with the tools they need to preserve and strengthen their accounting practices.
Providing multiple services in an integrated fashion and, when appropriate, on a national basis invariably proves to be more cost-efficient for our clients and significantly increases the prospect of achieving desired outcomes.
While litigation has been a mainstay of Wilson Elser’s accounting practice for 30 years, we have the requisite experience, vast industry knowledge, national footprint and integrated team approach to assist clients with other important legal matters, including:
- Best practices and risk management
- Ethics inquiries and proceedings
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Withdrawing partners or key employees
- Revising and redrawing partnership agreements and dissolutions
- Licensing and compliance
- Representation of networks and associations
Providing these services in an integrated fashion and, when appropriate, on a national basis invariably proves to be more cost-efficient for our clients and significantly increases the prospect of achieving desired outcomes. It also translates into an uncommon ability to serve as sole legal advisor for several of our clients, including some of the larger accounting firms and networks.
As dictated by a client’s individual needs, we also work “cross-practice” with other functional areas within our firm. We have the background and resources to assist with the growing number of challenges that arise in such arenas as cyber risk, privacy rights, employment law, management liability, government affairs (including our preeminent lobbying practice), unfair competition and class actions, and commercial/transactional services. Wilson Elser’s practices and 24 offices are integrated in a close matrix that allows immediate access to the necessary special knowledge our accounting clients need. Our collective experience represents a self-contained and complete spectrum of legal services required to advance their objectives.
Wilson Elser has assisted thousands of accounting firms of every type and size throughout the world. We represent these firms and their individual practitioners in state and federal courts, before ethics committees of professional organizations and licensing boards, and in many other capacities.
Wilson Elser is proud of its reputation as one of the largest and most successful litigation firms in the world. We have litigated virtually every type of accounting matter, from local and straightforward to multijurisdictional and complex. For example, we work closely with carriers in retaining many of the nation’s foremost expert witnesses, mediators, arbitrators and electronic discovery consultants. The insurers with whom we work appreciate our philosophy of fighting hard while avoiding wasted effort. When we recommend specific actions, our clients can be assured that they are designed to contribute to desired outcomes and not to increase our billings. This kind of credibility helps us avoid many situations in which the accounting firm’s interests might diverge from those of its insurers.
We intelligently and aggressively defend parties in malpractice lawsuits and against claims by third-party users of accounting firm services involving a broad range of claims. These include audit failures, security laws claims, failure to detect embezzlement and fraud, providing allegedly faulty tax or estate planning advice and improperly valuing businesses.
Our reach extends nationwide, including both state and federal jurisdictions. As noted above, we also represent accountants in arbitrations and mediations and before the ethics committees of professional organizations.
In addition to malpractice lawsuits, our attorneys are involved in many types of commercial litigation that involve the accounting profession, including restrictive covenant litigation and partnership disputes. For example, we represent clients in business disputes with competitors, contract disputes with vendors and landlords, enforcement of restrictive covenants and dissolution proceedings.
Apart from malpractice and commercial litigation, our attorneys help our clients respond to subpoenas in connection with grand jury investigations, criminal trials and litigation – areas often fraught with peril for the accounting profession.
Practice and Risk Management
Our depth of experience relative to accounting firms and the suits brought against them allows us to skillfully advise on managing risk. We specifically address matters involving federal securities regulations, ERISA, compliance with professional standards and regulatory mandates, and best practices.
Our attorneys are adept at crafting engagement letters that avoid trouble spots and unambiguously define scope of duties. We also prepare disengagement letters designed to effectively encourage the end of a client relationship and decrease the potential for malpractice suits. We advise on communications between predecessor and successor auditors, document retention requirements and letters withdrawing reports.
The most effective course with respect to lawsuits is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. We work closely with clients to create a culture of prevention. This frequently involves analysis and strengthening of an organization’s operations – from document retention to timekeeping to client selection and disengagement. It also entails conducting training seminars that address such key topics as risk management, ethics and practice management. Our attorneys have spoken widely on these and related topics to insurers and accounting firms alike.
New and often complex regulations translate into more aggressive scrutiny of our clients and resulting increases in exposure. Indeed, failure to keep pace with the continual changes in regulatory compliance can lead to drastic, even fatal consequences. Our Government Affairs practice actively interacts with regulatory agencies, such as the SEC, the PCAOB and the FASB. Several of our attorneys list these agencies on their resumes. Our familiarity with emerging rules, issues and procedures allows us to better protect our clients’ interests should they become the subject of inquiries.
Investigations and Ethics
We represent accountants in ethics proceedings before the AICPA, the IRS, the SEC, the PCAOB and the professional societies and state licensing boards in numerous states. We have handled these matters from initial inquiry letters to dispositive hearings on the merits.
Accounting Associations and Networks
An increasingly “flat” and interconnected world has given rise to international accounting associations and networks. Having access to the extensive resources of these organizations is often required to properly service an account.
Wilson Elser is intimately familiar with international accounting associations and networks, having collaborated with them in various capacities for nearly two decades. We have served them in various capacities, including:
- Assisting in their formation or reorganization
- Advising on membership issues
- Minimizing potential vicarious liability
- Addressing intellectual property issues
- Creating internal documents, such as charters, by-laws and agreements
- Effectively acting as general counsel and/or legal department when neither exists
Counseling individual members on mitigating risk relative to client-specific matters and general business practices
Wilson Elser is frequently involved in the business transactions of accounting firms. These transactions have escalated rapidly as a function of increased competition throughout the industry. Typically involving mergers, joint ventures with non-professional firms and practice divestitures, they require experienced drafting of shareholder, partnership, employment and other agreements.
We are familiar with the unique accounting regulations that govern transactional matters as well as general transactional law concepts. Drawing from deep experience and national resources, we represent accounting firms in mergers and dissolutions, always in the broader context of their business strategies. We negotiate the terms of these transactions and cement them with proper documentation.
Relative to partner agreements, we assist in the creation of limited liability partnerships and professional corporations. For accounting firms seeking to expand their operations, we assist in registering practices in additional states. We also address litigation matters in relation to partners and restrictive convents. Since these transactions frequently involve multiple jurisdictions, our national scope is a valuable resource in efficiently and appropriately advising our accounting clients.
Accountancies need to ensure smooth and stable day-to-day operations among their rank and file. Wilson Elser assists by successfully negotiating real estate leases and equipment leases as well as their subsequent renewals. Once again, we are able to tap into resources firmwide – in this instance, our Real Estate practice – to better serve our clients and offer them one point of contact for their varied legal needs.
Accountants and their firms want to practice accountancy, not law. Nonetheless, legal issues invariably distract and intrude. When this occurs, they look to Wilson Elser, the only law firm that provides an integrated, total solution with goals aligned precisely with those of our clients.