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Can a McGladrey Associate Let Their Former Classmate Know That They Don’t Have What It Takes?

Welcome to the botched-BJ edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a first year at McGladrey doesn’t feel comfortable recommending his former college classmate for any openings at his firm. How does one handle breaking the news to the interested party that they don’t have what it takes?

Ever have trouble controlling yourself in an appropriate manner? Are you getting the sense that you’re being set up to fail? Ever feel like you’ve got enemies all around you? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll try to get you out of a bad situation.

Meanwhile, back in the land of punch and cake:

Hi there,

I’m a first-year at McGladrey. For the second time in the past month a former college classmate of mine has requested that I recommend him to the powers that be at our firm for any openings we may have.

I don’t think that either of these people would fit into a major public accounting firm either socially or in terms of talent. What is the appropriate etiquitte for this situation? I doubt I’m the only one.


Dear Natalie Fanboy,

I’d be really interested to hear why you think your former classmate wouldn’t fit in “socially or in terms of talent.” Do they still have trouble getting through Goodnight Moon? Does he/she have terrible body odor? Do their social skills border somewhere between “Did you look in the mirror before you left the house?” and “We can’t take you anywhere!”? These details would prove helpful.

I’ll move on. Most firms have an automated method of submitting referrals and I’d be shocked if McGladrey didn’t have something similar. If Mickey G’s does have a such a process, just throw your classmate’s résumé into the machine and it will get sorted out one way or another. If your suspicions are correct (i.e. your friend has no chance) then it’s likely nothing will happen.

If McGladrey doesn’t have such protocols in place and it is based on the ol’ résumé handoff, then A) Tell McG HR to get their shit together and B) simply explain to your friend what it’s like to work there before they start claiming this is their dream job. Is a career at McGladrey really what this person wants or did they recently come to the conclusion that clocking hours on PS3 won’t get them too far in life and they’ve go to do something?

The other thing you can do is impress upon your friend that you’re a first year associate and they barely let you have lunch, let alone recommend former classmates to TPTB at the firm. That is, the odds of anything happening are slim. If your he/she persists, explain what the expectations are (i.e. hours for the pay, other things that make it less-than desirable) and that people fail left and right. Basically, let this Mickey G wannabe know what kind of situation they’d be getting themselves into. This will allow you to indirectly present the reasons you don’t think this person might not fit in without explicitly pointing out their shortcomings.

Now, if they still are begging you to take their résumé, I don’t know why you wouldn’t just pass it along and see what happens. Hell, if they were to get hired, you might even get a bonus out of it. You got something against money?

Turns Out, CPAs Making Nice with Lawyers Is a Good Business Practice

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

There’s nothing better than a warm referral – and most CPAs are always on the hunt for new sources. One great potential lead source that is often overlooked is the attorney who practices in areas that are complementary to your expertise.

“I find that networking with attorneys is one of those few win-win opportunities for both of us,” said Steven J. Elliott, tax director at Schwartz & Co, LLP. “There are often many referral opportunities for work that the other professional provides.”

Elliott believes the attorney benefits in two ways. First, he benefits by making a known referral; second, by receiving referrals regarding a need for an attorney related to his area of practice.

Sound’s like a great win-win, so I interviewed a number of CPAs who have been successful in working with attorneys in order to learn about their best practices for developing meaningful, productive, mutually beneficial relationships.

How to build, cultivate relationships with attorneys

Howard Grobstein, a partner and leader of Forensic Services group in Crowe Horwath’s Audit and Financial Advisory practice, believes that best practices to build relationships with attorneys for business development involves two main components.

“First and foremost is providing high-quality work and exceptional service,” said Grobstein. “Attorneys have different styles and expectations, so CPAs should listen to what the attorney needs. They need to make sure they can present their expertise in a style that will be acceptable to the attorney and only take on those engagements where they can meet expectations, and perform with high quality and efficiency. My practice has developed because I make sure that I can do the project based on how that specific attorney works.

Importance of building strong, genuine relationships

Many CPAs agree that strong relationships are the real key – it’s better to have a smaller number of close relationships, than a larger network that is loosely tied together.

Jacob Renick, chair of the New York State Society of CPAs Litigation Services Committee, elaborated: “You can’t expect attorneys to send you business unless you have a very strong relationship with them. It has to be a one-to-one relationship. You’re better off having relationships with five attorneys rather than 30, if you have deep and solid relationships with those five.”

Mark Eiger, CPA, a New Jersey-based accountant, agreed: “The best way to strengthen the relationship between accountants and attorneys is to actually build a relationship. It takes time to develop quality referral partners. You’ll have more of an appreciation for the person’s work and capabilities if you get to know that person personally.”

What attorneys want

Renick emphasizes that attorneys are looking for someone to be honest with them, and to share their expertise and knowledge.

“If you don’t have the expertise, refer them to someone who has it,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to refer somebody – if you’re good, they’re going to use you. In addition, keep them up to date with respect to your expertise. For example, share recent changes you’ve become aware of, and give them a heads-up of what’s coming down the pike.”

Connect with attorneys who share similar interests, beliefs

Most CPAs I spoke with agreed that you’ll do best by connecting with like-minded attorneys. Michael D. Greaney, CPA, MBA, got a referral to a client by being in the same choir with an attorney. He talked to the attorney about law topics he had expertise in and figured out the two of them had a similar orientation toward the law.

“What clinched the referral is that it turned out that we share a natural law orientation from the Aristotelian perspective,” Greaney said. “An attorney will not feel comfortable referring a client to someone whom he or she thinks will not have the client’s best interests at heart, which means thinking along the same general lines as the attorney in ethical matters.”

Focus on serving the attorney’s best interest

Rob Siddoway with Cambridge Financial believes the No. 1 must-ask question to an attorney is: “What are the characteristics of your ideal client?” He then advises that CPAs do their best to find an ideal client for the attorney and make the introduction.

“After you have had a few lunches and sent a client or two to the attorney, set an appointment to explain what you do, the relationships you are seeking, and let them know what your ideal client looks like,” Siddoway said. “The focus is to give, give, and give some more without the expectation of anything coming back to you. The results of doing this are not mere referrals, but strong recommendations that generally lead to very good clients. There are those who understand giving first. You will quickly learn who the givers are, but always make it a point to give first and you will be successful.”

Good ways to initially strike up relationships with attorneys

Gail Rosen, CPA, recommended you do their taxes!

“The best way to get referrals from attorneys is to be the CPA who does the attorney’s tax return – then they do not forget you,” she said. “Attorneys have unique tax returns that include the tax treatment of costs recovered. If you learn about these tax laws, you will be in a better position to get attorneys as clients.”

Howard M. Rosen, a CPA with Conner Ash P.C., holds internal marketing events, where his firm invites a law firm to come to its office.

“We put together three or four 4-minute presentations on subjects the attorneys would not necessarily think of when they think about CPA firms,” he said. “If the attorneys are estate and probate specialists, we talk about how we can assist to ensure trusts are funded and that the plans make sense after time due to asset growth. If they are litigators, we talk about how we can help them build damage claims from business interruption, breach of contract, and so on. It’s unique, it’s fun, and it gets us business.”

John Sensiba, managing partner at Sensiba San Filippo LLP, believes the first thing you should do is find out who your clients are working with in order to get on the same page, and make sure the advice your client is receiving is consistent. This, incidentally, provides a good opportunity to meet and connect with their attorney.

Sensiba’s firm also has had great success hosting events for law firms at his office. These typically consist of 10-minute presentations from 5 to 7 p.m. about what the firm does and why it is different. He’s found that law firms generally are eager to attend; in the current economy, law firms also are very open to events that could potentially generate new business.

Howard Grobstein has had success getting involved in organizations that include attorneys with similar practices. For example, he became a member of the California Receivers Forum, and soon after became an officer and ultimately the co-chair. He followed the same track with the Los Angeles Bankruptcy Forum, and is positioned to take on additional roles within the organization.

“These types of organizations provide me with opportunities to attend educational, social, and networking events with attorneys who may need CPA consultants for their work. The goal is to develop a genuine relationship that runs beyond work.”

American Association of Attorney-Certified Public Accountants

The AAA-CPA is an organization of dually licensed attorney-CPAs, highly recommended by Tom Simeone, a partner at Simeone & Miller LLP. Simeone, a practicing trial lawyer and a dually licensed professional in his own right, has found this organization to be a great resource for connecting with new colleagues on the other side of the fence. The AAA-CPA offers a number of networking and referral opportunities for its members, and Simeone considers this to be his top source for generating new referrals.

Consider focusing on your niche practice

Andrew Schwartz, CPA, of Schwartz & Schwartz P.C., networks specifically with attorneys who practice in the health care field where 90 percent of his client base is located.

“We have the most success dealing with attorneys who also have a niche practice within health care,” said Schwartz. “We feel comfortable referring our clients to an attorney with a health care niche, knowing they will get timely advice and information.

“These attorneys know that they can refer their health care clients to us, and feel confident that we have dealt with other clients in a similar situation,” said Schwartz. “Our clients are happy that neither my firm nor the attorney is learning on their dime, so the common niche is the basis for the most productive relationships my firm has with a handful of the lawyers in the Boston area.”

Pay attention to estate attorneys (Hint: most Americans don’t have a will)

Kelley Long, CPA recommends connecting with estate attorneys, in particular, because they have more ongoing relationships with their clients.

“I’ve found estate attorneys to be easier to get to know – and easier to refer my clients to as well,” Long said. “Most of them do not have a will in place, and they are usually eager to speak with an estate planning attorney.”

Estate planning attorney Brian Raftery, a partner with Herrick, Feinstein LLP, works closely with several CPAs himself and concurs that the majority of Americans do not have a will in place. He tries to refer his clients to CPAs if he sees a need for professional tax assistance.

“I always look for issues my clients face that can potentially be resolved if the proper professional is brought into place,” said Raftery, who often spots obvious opportunities when his high net-worth clients are filing their own tax returns via TurboTax.

“When I see an opportunity, I try to match up my clients not only with the appropriate skill need, but also I do my best to ensure a proper personality fit.” As a result, Raftery concurs with his fellow CPAs in the need to not only align professional goals, but also personal beliefs and philosophies.

What to do when you get a referral

This is another area where everyone we spoke with agreed emphatically – go above and beyond the call of duty when you receive a referral.

Joe Epps, of Epps CPA Consulting, cited this as his top piece of advice: “You’ve got to give top quality service. It’s extremely important to do a very professional job when you do get a referral.”

Renick agreed – and adds that if you don’t have the expertise, or are conflicted out of the engagement, you should refer someone. “Don’t be afraid to refer somebody. If you’re good, they’re going to use you.”

About the author:
Brett Owens is CEO and co-founder of Chrometa, a Sacramento, CA-based provider of time-tracking software that records activity in real time. Previously marketed to only the legal community, Chrometa is branching out to accounting prospects. Gains include the ability to discover previously undocumented billable time, saving time on billing reconciliation and improving personal productivity. Owens also is a blogger and founder at, as well as a regular contributor to two leading financial media sites, and Minyanville.