As I prepare to write this editorial, I am struck by the fact that we have three alumni who have recently published books. Perhaps it is a function of time. The firm folded almost 17 years ago. So God willing, we are all older and with that comes experience. Couple that with the training and insights we experienced while at Andersen, I guess it should be no real surprise that our alumni have stories and knowledge to share. Check them out in the newsletter.

I recently took on the role of CEO at Taylor, English Duma LLP (a large Atlanta based law firm). We have 180 attorneys who are very good at what they do. Most of them cut their teeth at the AM LAW 100 (largest law firms in the US). They went to the best schools and joined the best law firms in the country. Very similar to those of us who joined Andersen from our various universities. You may remember the recruiting tag line – The best and the brightest. Back in the day, the Big 8 and the AM LAW 100 attracted the best and the brightest into their professions.

At that point the similarities stopped. First of all let me say I am not a lawyer, so I may be biased a little. Andersen had a much more holistic approach to training their young staff vs the large law firms. While there were many similarities, primarily billable hours and a commitment to the client, there was a distinct difference in how the two trained young Staff/Associates.

Andersen’s commitment to firm wide training was unparalleled. As a young auditor, we all went to St Charles for two weeks. We did not just learn how to be an auditor, we started to learn what it meant to be a professional. Those learnings continued when we got back to the office. We continued to learn how to be accomplished audit and tax professionals while we also learned and observed client and business development skills. We learned what it meant to add value, above and beyond the audit.

Here is one anecdotal example that I think speaks volumes. I suspect your situation was similar. I started in the Atlanta office. We were instructed that we should not eat at our desks, rather we should leave the client each day and go to a “sit down” restaurant for lunch. This was an opportunity to bond with the team as well as start the practice of inviting the client to lunch to deepen the relationships. Little did I realize at the time, this was to become a business development cornerstone in my career.

Contrast that to most of the AM LAW firms. The focus at these firms was centered on billable hours. It had to be when you considered the starting salaries they paid their associates. The cliché of 2,500 billable hours resulted in long hours in the office and little direct interaction with the client for the new associate. This resulted in the fact that it was the norm to eat lunch at your desk. In fact, most firms had cafeterias in the firm to accommodate this. It made total sense. By eating lunch at your desk, it often meant you were able to go home at 8:00 in the evening rather than 9:00. It made sense. If you survived at the firm, starting in year 4 or 5 you started engaging more directly with the client. However, by then, your habit was to rarely leave the office.

I am not saying one way is better than the other. There are differences in each business model. We did most of our work at the client site while most legal work was done in the law firm’s office. I am convinced that the Andersen method resulting in most of us building career enhancing business development skills over our peers at the large law firms. I continue this practice to this date. The combination of thousands of lunches (coffees and dinners) with friends and business colleagues has resulted in most of my business success as well as a substantial increase in my waistline.

This is but one of several differences I have noticed between the accounting/consulting profession and the legal profession. Both are focused on delivering excellent service to their clients. They have developed different ways to do it. I am still learning, and it is great to experience another professional service model that is devoted to meeting, if not exceeding, client needs and expectations.

As always, we need your help to further strengthen and maintain our Andersen Alumni network. Please leverage our Social Media Presence and LIKE our Facebook page and JOIN our LinkedIn network, and lastly you can FOLLOW us on LinkedIn as well.

Kirk Hancock