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Thursday, Dec 1, 2022
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SPECIAL REPORT: Barbara Luna

As a senior partner at the firm, Barbara Luna serves as an expert witness at trials involving bankruptcy, divorce, fraud, breach of contract, wrongful termination, intellectual property, unfair competition and malpractice. She has worked in litigation support for more than 30 years. Prior to joining White Zuckerman in Sherman Oaks, she was national director of litigation consulting for Kenneth Leventhal & Co. and was a partner in financial advisory at Coopers & Lybrand. FIRM: White Zuckerman Warsavsky Luna & Hunt SPECIALTIES: Litigation, forensic accounting HOBBIES: Movies, swimming Question: Why accounting? Answer: I wanted to do more personalized consulting than the investment banking that I was doing at the time. I also wanted to remain in the L.A. area, knowing that I eventually wanted a family in addition to my work. Most interesting aspect of job: Identifying the pieces to the jigsaw puzzle. I almost never have complete information and I like to see the story unfold. In particular, I like identifying “smoking guns.” How do you get involved with lawsuits? Typically, I am paid by the client with the lawyer directing my work. Forensic accounting and litigation consulting were a natural fit for my math and financial skills. Additionally, my area of accounting requires the accountant to be a quick thinker, which is required for expert testimony on the witness stand. How do you get new clients? Word of mouth by winning cases and being very reputable. Also, advertising, following up with attorneys and clients and keeping a friendly, professional relationship. How does your personality help you as an accountant? My intelligence and quickness of mind are the main things that help me. When I was little, I used to get the answers to problems at school and then would have to think, “How did I derive that answer?” Typical work week: 50 to 60 hours. Favorite out-of-the-office activities: Movies, restaurants, swimming and the beach. How has accounting changed during your career? It has become more competitive. I have also seen opposing experts take more radical positions than historically, which is a shame for the integrity of our profession. If you could change one law or accounting rule, what would it be? I would like “materiality” to be better defined with examples, so there is less discretion if the result of an action is material to the financial statements or a company’s profitability. Most memorable experiences: First, having to go through three metal detectors to get into the courtroom to testify; and second, testifying in a high-profile case where there were in excess of 50 attorneys in the courtroom. What gives a “power accountant” his/her power? Self-confidence, self-esteem and a lot of experience. Your role within the firm: Chief cook and bottle-washer! I am a rainmaker, manager and strategist, but at deposition and trial, I also have to know the source of each piece of information and data and be able to quickly turn to it. What do you wish clients would do more often? Pay quickly. Advice for others considering a career in accounting: Learn the basics first and pay attention to detail. Then, you will be ready to specialize in an area. Remember that even in accounting, you will eventually be required to generate business if you want to get to the top of the heap. Have the fire in your belly to be able to make your own destiny. Along the way, though, you always need to provide professional service in the best interest of your client and manage your staff with sensitivity and finesse to keep a happy professional family.

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