Know What You Know, and Know What You Don’t Know


Bruce Dorris, J.D., CPA, CFE
ACFE VP and Program Director

Lawyers are often the punch lines for many jokes – some deservedly so. But attorneys are needed around the globe to help resolve complex fraud issues, and CFEs play a critical role in that service.

I've been amazed at some of the talented professionals who have worked on the fraud cases brought to me. However, lawyers, like CFEs, are often strapped for time and juggling many demands. As such, it is imperative to get their attention from the beginning.

Many years ago, I met with a CFE from a large company about a procurement fraud occurring within their ranks. We set up an appointment, and she brought in a tight, concise presentation that included a detailed report, along with copies of necessary documents and an executive summary. For the meeting itself, she came in with several printed PowerPoint slides (I said this was a LONG time ago) to convey her message quickly. It worked. Not only was I convinced that the suspect committed the fraud, I was equally impressed at the diligence and effort the fraud examiner put into her presentation.

First impressions last. But getting a foot in the door is only the first step. You must be able to deliver continually and consistently. It may be months before you talk to the attorney again, and it may be with short notice just before a judicial hearing. But being prepared from the outset is vital when meeting with counsel.

Frank Wisehart, CFE, CPA, Director of Business Advisory Services at Schneider Downs, who frequently works with attorneys in his fraud examination practice, says, “Know what you know, and know what you don’t know.” This statement is critical as the attorney and fraud examiner work to identify what the major issues will be as a case progresses. It’s important to know what is going to be most crucial, but it is equally important to know not to opine on anything you can’t back up.

We recently launched an online self-study, “Working with Attorneys in Fraud Examinations.” This course goes beyond what the attorney is thinking or doing. It provides tips and suggestions for report writing, indexing evidence and more. If you have not had a lot of experience in the courtroom, or if you need a refresher, this course may reduce your stress level by helping you understand this unique and challenging environment. It will make you better prepared, and you can pick up a little CPE along the way.