How a Kasowitz Partner Uses Blended Learning to Teach Accounting and Finance Concepts to Litigators
By Katie Walter
Innovative approach and outside resources made it easy to deliver on partner’s responsibility to train associates.
To many partners. training associates is an important part of their job. It’s also the one that can be hardest to find time for or feel effective at. Paul Burgo was determined to crack the code. He wound up delivering what one participant called the “best CLE program ever.”
Burgo is a commercial litigation partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP. His cases frequently involve disputes involving complex financial issues, and require him to be comfortable with financial statements. He decided to create a blended-learning session on financial statements in collaboration with his colleagues in Professional Development and the Hotshot team.
“I had been thinking about doing a finance training for years,” he said. “But I didn’t have the time to pull it together myself.”
What gave him the time now? “Hotshot took the work out if it. Hotshot videos are polished and reflect the way people learn. I didn’t have to figure out how to build a course from scratch.” Instead, he used Hotshot videos for foundational learning and then built on them with stories, examples, and insights that would be particularly useful to his colleagues.
To start, Burgo thought about his cases where it was helpful to understand financial statements. He started with securities litigations involving misrepresentations. He also wanted to touch on diligence, valuation disputes, fraudulent transfers, and bankruptcy disputes, all instances where a lawyer who can read financial statements has an advantage.
With those use cases in mind, Burgo worked with Hotshot to identify foundational videos that would set the stage for a conversation about how financial statements play into these litigation scenarios. “Hotshot gave me a list of videos that would help, and an interactive worksheet that our lawyers could work with during the session, keeping them engaged,” he said. “Our lawyers were able to tie the session content to issues that we see repeatedly in our practice. Financial statements are relevant to almost everything we do.”
He then invited all the attorneys in the firm to “Introduction to Financial Statements for Litigators.” He was pleasantly surprised by how many senior lawyers attended. “I read finance manuals for fun,” he said, “but not everyone is like that. A lot of people went to law school with undergrad degrees in political science or English, and haven’t had the opportunity to beef up their financial skills.”
Attendees received links to a Hotshot video ahead of time, though Burgo also showed the video during the session to eliminate barriers to attending. After the group had watched some content from Hotshot’s Accounting & Finance topic, he moved all attendees into breakout rooms on his meeting platform. In the breakout sessions, the lawyers worked together to complete the worksheet from Hotshot, which reinforced some of the lessons from the session. “It was great for people to work with lawyers from all of our offices. The interactions were very casual and collaborative.”
Burgo then dove into the ways financial statements can be relevant in different types of complex commercial litigation. For example, he went on the SEC’s website, EDGAR, to walk through a particular company’s various types of SEC filings, including its quarterly and annual audited financial statements. Then he talked about disclosures, audit opinions, and the financial notes. “That’s where some of the juicy stuff is,” he told attendees.
Burgo said the feedback to this blended approach was very positive. One attendee told him, “I can't say enough good things about this presentation…The topic was incredibly practical and useful, and the brief exercise after the presentation was a great way to reinforce what we just learned. I'm really looking forward to more presentations like this one and to exploring the other courses that are available on Hotshot.”
More senior lawyers also appreciated getting the refresher. “When you’re not reading these statements all the time, it’s easy to forget how you can use them to best represent your client,” Burgo said. More junior lawyers appreciated having the content delivered in the context of real companies.
Burgo is looking forward to creating more training sessions. He’s considering a broader financial program that covers finance and institutional investing more generally, and wants to continue pairing his own experiences and insights with Hotshot videos. “Associates really liked hearing war stories from real cases, like how to approach auditor subpoenas. Those personal touches made it more real and memorable.”
Hotshot can work with your firm to implement many of the ideas above. We can also brainstorm other ways to engage and educate your associates. Contact us to learn more.