What famous person would you like to have dinner with? Where would you dine, and what would you talk about?
If I could have dinner with one famous person, it would be Sir Richard Branson on Necker Island (his private island). Beautiful scenery with motivating and interesting conversation to match! Sir Richard Branson is a huge source of inspiration for me in both business and life. I have read all his books and would recommend them to anyone. He has had incredible success in business and fought through adversity many times.
In addition to his entrepreneurial ventures, he is a philanthropist and humanitarian dedicated to making the world a better place. On top of all this, he is still able to put top priority on his family life. It seems like he is a one-man wonder who can do anything. We would discuss what he has learned from his successes and failures and how I could help in his quest to change the world for the better. Talking about revolutionizing the world with one of the most prolific minds of our time with a margarita in hand sounds like a perfect way to watch the sunset.
Your practice focuses on auditing and tax issues in complex commercial disputes. What drew you to that practice area?
I started out my career as an auditor and tax accountant. I found that work challenging, but after my first case testifying in open court, I was hooked. To me, there is no other type of work in our profession that is more challenging than being on the witness stand, being cross-examined by intelligent people, justifying and defending the analysis and convincing the trier of fact (whether it is a judge or jury) why my number is the correct number. As a result, I have devoted my career on a full-time basis to providing litigation support services to legal counsel and their clients in complex commercial disputes. I would have it no other way and would encourage younger folks entering the accounting profession to get involved in this business full time.
What is one thing that your friends know about you that others would never guess?
I’m a wicked prankster. Recently, I visited Paris with two girlfriends. Each bought a lovely ring as a memento. Over dinner, the discussion turned to customs declarations. Now, you have to know, if I bring a postcard back into this country, I declare it. My two otherwise honest friends felt that because the rings put them only slightly over the duty-free limit, it wouldn’t hurt to “forget” them. We flew home on Friday, one friend to Los Angeles and the other to Seattle with me. On Saturday morning, she said, “Let’s call Donna and see what she did about the ring.”
I don’t know what came over me, but when Donna’s answering machine picked up, I put on my professional voice and said, “Yes, this is Miss Browning with the U.S. Customs Department. I see that you’ve just returned from France, and in reviewing your Visa card statement, it appears that you forgot to declare a piece of jewelry when you cleared customs. It’s quite important that we speak with you soon. Please call me at …” and I just made up an 800 number.
No call from Donna all weekend. Finally, my Seattle friend said, “We’ve got to call her. She didn’t know it was us.” I couldn’t believe Donna wouldn’t recognize my voice, but when we called, it was clear her guilt had distorted her hearing. She had spent the weekend frantically calling Miss Browning’s phone number only to reach the answering machine for a dentist in Kansas City. She found the number for Customs in the phone book, but luckily the office is closed on the weekend.
On a subsequent trip to South America, Donna bought an emerald ring. I asked if she had declared it at Customs, and she said, “Oh, yes. I never want to hear from Miss Browning again!”
Describe your most relaxing (or favorite) vacation.
There’s no place better to be than on an expanse of grass that disappears below the horizon as it drops towards the lake you can’t quite see, but is unmistakably identified by the sound of jet skis in the distance. The backdrop is a mountain range so close you’re convinced you can touch them. It’s a one-of-a-kind venue to play some pickup football while the pros play for real on a T.V. in the living room. This is what I enjoy at Lake Chelan in Washington state every chance I get.
A longtime family getaway, the small towns of Manson and Chelan, a little more than three hours northeast of Seattle, feature a welcoming small-town feel, great water sports, golf, and a short off-road drive up the mountain for some trap shooting. While I’m sure there are a few things that beat a late brunch up in the mountains at Blueberry Hills, I just haven’t found them yet. Whether it’s the setting or the nostalgia of familial camaraderie, I get back every chance I have.