Accounting and law students team up to aid small businesses, non-profits.

Law and Accounting Clinic
From left, Corally Rodriguez, MACC student; Illeana Charry, client;Indyara Andion, law student, and Tessie Brunken, professor, Accounting

Thanks to an innovative collaboration between the college’s School of Accounting and the College of Law, qualified small businesses and non-profit organizations can receive free accounting services in the latter’s Community Development Clinic. Launched in fall, 2007, the initiative has received $20,000 in support from Rachlin Cohen & Holtz, LLP, one of South Florida’s largest public accounting firms, that will sustain it for two additional semesters.

Under the program, Master of Accounting (MACC) students work with their law-school peers to offer clients guidance on a range of contract and employment issues. They also attend weekly lectures that draw on their clinic experiences and address topics such as business plan development, entity formation, budgeting, licensing and tax compliance.

In addition to classroom instruction, Sharon Lassar, director, School of Accounting, explained that students also can seek counsel from staff at Rachlin Cohen & Holtz, which has agreed to provide “advice and confirming opinions” on individual client cases.

“This is a great hands-on learning experience,” said Tessie Brunken (EMST ’86, BBA ’81), assistant director of student services, School of Accounting, who developed the initiative along with Peggy Maisel, associate professor of law and director of the legal clinic. “It provides accounting students with exposure to legal processes they will likely encounter at some point in their work.”

Maisel, whose receipt of a prestigious Kauffman Professor Award allowed her to expand the clinic by joining forces with the business school, said the initiative highlights the value of “interdisciplinary education” and the “opportunity for accounting and law students to learn from each other.”

MACC students gain valuable legal insights.

The chance to learn legal aspects of business formation was what piqued the interest of Coraly Rodriguez (MACC ’07). Rodriguez, an account supervisor at Miami-based Pinnacle Housing Group, said interacting with law students gave her another lens through which to view her work as an accountant.

“You gain a different mindset when you work with those in other fields,” she said. “I now look at documents and information from a broader perspective. Also, it’s great to have people to call when legal issues or questions come up on the job.”

While acknowledging the intensity of the workload, Rodriguez described the opportunity to work in the clinic as one “that can’t be passed up. This is a chance to do something positive for your career and for someone who needs it,” she said.

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