Accountants involved in expert witness work could see their work dry up as a result of major law reforms next year, the profession was warned this week.
Bond Solon, the UK’s leading expert witness training company, also says accountants who survive the reforms face a major squeeze on fees.
A increasing number of accountants have become involved in expert witness and other litigation work as a lucrative alternative to fee-pressured audit and compliance work.
Notable among these is English ICA president Chris Swinson, who acted as expert witness for Dame Shirley Porter following the homes-for-votes scandal at Westminster Council.
But Bond Solon says many have not woken up to new court rules and the introduction of the no-win, no-fee system. These developments, it says, will halt the expert witness ‘gravy train’.
Part of the Woolf legal system reforms, the new rules will enable courts to restrict the number of expert witnesses and also control excessive fees.
The death of legal aid will also hit expert witnesses, and solicitors may start to request work on a no-win, no-fee basis.
Alex Brown, a partner with East Anglian accounting firm Lovewell Blake and a governor of the expert witness institute, said: ‘Both solicitors and accountants will find themselves under fee pressure and it will not become any easier to make our living.’
He added that less efficient expert witnesses would have to change their methods if they were to survive the reforms.
But, he said that it the Woolf reforms achieved what they set out to and opened up the courts to more disputes, there could be more work around.
Bond Solon is holding a conference on the issue tomorrow. Director Mark Solon said accountants thinking of making an easy buck from litigation work should think twice.
‘Those who are fully aware of the impact of the new legislation will make money. Those who aren’t will get their fingers burned,’ he said.
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