The last time I appeared in Court…..

Back in late 2004 I was asked to give an initial view as to the tax issues in a professional negligence case involving an accountant.   I was paid but then heard nothing more for almost 9 months.

This was one of the those cases that was clearly going to settle before the trial date. Only it didn’t. Even though the claim was in respect of less than £40k. This was the aggregate tax that need not have been paid if the accountant had given some pretty obvious advice. The taxpayer’s new accountant thought it was obvious as did I. The old accountant’s PI insurers did not agree nor did their expert witness.

So in January 2006 I appeared in Court as an expert witness helping the Court to appreciate what actions I would have expected a reasonably competent qualified accountant to have undertaken. The Court was being asked to find that the accountant had failed in her duty of care to her ex-client (the claimant) and was therefore liable for the loss suffered as a result of such negligence.

It was only some months after the case was heard that His Honour Judge O’Malley was able to complete his judgement and which I have only recently seen. It has yet to appear on the net.
My talk on How to avoid tax related professional claims is already peppered with references to this case. Now I have another one to add:

Throughout his judgement His Honour makes clear that he accepts my evidence as against that of the expert appointed by the defendant. In para 15 however he has recorded something that I will treasure for some time:

Referring to me he states that: “It is hard to imagine a person better qualified to give expert evidence in a case such as the present.”

I’m duly flattered!

I have written a 10,000 word ebook drawn from my talk on How to avoid professional negligence claims, containing tips and risk management advice for accountants in practice. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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The mentor option

The September issue of Accountancy magazine has been published and I am delighted to see that they have included my letter in response to an article about coaching and mentoring in the July issue. The full text of my letter appeared on this blog on 30 July.

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Memories of being mentored

Mentoring seems to be flavour of the month all of a sudden. I was approached today by a journalist who wanted a quote from someone with experience of the traditional internal style of mentoring that some larger firms provide. Here’s what I said:

” As a junior partner many years ago I was allocated a mentor. He was a senior partner in the firm and I recall he took me for a very nice lunch to confirm his commitment to the (undefined) mentoring process. Although we chatted on and off over the subsequent months and years I did not gain any demonstrable benefit from having him identified as my mentor.

My experience all those years ago was part of the inspiration for the external, tailored mentoring service that I now provide for ambitious professionals. I have the time, the talent and the techniques to ensure that the firms which engage me can measure the value that I bring. This process is more motivating for the individuals concerned and enables them to build up their business and personal skills so that they can operate more effectively and profitably for the firm.”

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Tax Careers magazine

The current issue contains a short article of mine that should be of interest to all ambitious professionals. The editor has titled it: More than technical skills and has added a desription: Whatever you may think, personal development courses are there for good reason. But, Mark Lee asks, are you making the most of them?

If you don’t get to see the magazine and would like a copy of my article, please just let me know and I can send you a pdf.

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When you need more than just technical skills

Whilst exam training focuses on developing technical skills most firms need managers and partners who also have a broad mix of business skills. As promotion is likely to depend upon such skills there are essentially only four options available to your firm. They will either:

  • pray, hope or make a wish that you magically develop all the necessary skills so they can justify promoting you;
  • send you on a range of generic personal skills courses and pray, hope or make a wish(!) that you pick up and practice sufficient tips to make the time and effort worthwhile;
  • arrange for you to receive personal, tailored mentoring that overcomes the problems inherent in the “courses” approach; or
  • recruit someone else who already has proven business skills across the board.

Some firms combine the last two options and arrange mentoring as an additional benefit to attract potential recruits. In such cases the mentor is usually an independent third party; this evidences the firm’s commitment to the new candidate and will be a positive supplement to the firm’s conventional induction process.

Mentoring by an internal senior partner with sufficient time, talent and commitment – or by a trusted third-party – can be equally motivating for managers, senior managers and even junior partners where traditional ‘hopes’ and courses have not enabled them to yet achieve their potential or to be as profitable as the other partners would prefer.

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What to do if you are uncomfortable with selling…

If you ask 10 managing partners, what their key people need to do to get to partnership you will get at least a dozen opinions.

Top of most lists it seems is the need to satisfy the current partners in the firm that you will pay for yourself. This is often interpreted as requiring all new partners to be capable of winning lots of new work. So clearly having an ability in this area is a useful asset.

If you haven’t previously focussed any attention on developing your selling (or ‘finding’  skills, don’t leave it too late.

You may though be uncomfortable with the idea of “selling”. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Instead of “selling” though, think of what you’re doing as “helping” clients; after all, if your services aren’t going to help the client. Why should they want to engage you?

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Webcasts for tax advisers

I was flattered to be asked to record the first ever webcasts for the Chartered Accountants’ Tax Faculty last week.

You can now see them by clicking where it says Tax Faculty.

Many of the points coverd in the webcasts are easily adapted to other types of professional services and advice work.

The webcasts, which are each around 5 minutes long, are intended to help accountants to avoid disappointing and losing their clients. The webcasts focus on 3 key areas: Collating clients’ tax return information, billing the tax return work and quoting for tax compliance work.
When the recording was being planned I suggested that it might be best to use a teleprompter but none was available. That’s why you can see me referring to my notes. Other than that I think the webcasts are fine and I know they contain useful and commercial soultions. All of these are covered in more detail in my talk: How to make more money from your tax clients.

I would welcome your feedback on the webcasts and suggestions for future such items.

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