In each “Meet the Team” segment, we highlight a different professional on our Family Law team. The experience and expertise of our professionals allow us to bring a full suite of valuation and forensics services to our clients. We hope you enjoy getting to know us a bit better.

David Harkins, CFA, ABV began his valuation career at Mercer Capital as an intern in the summer of 2016. After finishing his degree at Sewanee, David joined Mercer Capital in 2017 as a financial analyst.

He works in our Nashville office and is a member of the firm’s Litigation Services Support team. In this role, David has worked on family law engagements with scores of companies in a wide range of industries. However, as a member of the firm’s Auto Dealership industry team, he has industry-specific experience working with auto dealership clients throughout the U.S.

What is the most rewarding part about your job?

David Harkins: I like that the numbers matter.

In litigation support engagements, we are valuing businesses and giving a number that will be used for selling, buying, or dividing a business. I think these types of engagements are interesting because of the immediate, tangible importance of the final answer.

The report will be thoroughly read and there needs to be an in-depth analysis to make sure that the concluding number is as reasonable as possible. It makes the work rewarding that our analysis is valuable to the clients.

What should family law clients understand about valuation and the services a firm like ours can provide?

David Harkins: I think the most important thing is for clients to involve us early on in the process. We can help narrow or expand the scope of an engagement to guide our clients and make the process as efficient as possible. We offer valuable services that are often underutilized.

Outside of solely giving a number for the value of a business, we can provide guidance throughout the process. We help clients understand the value of their business, explain another expert’s testimony, assist with questions, and provide expert advice on what steps should be taken in litigation matters, especially to ensure financial efficiency.

Another piece of advice I have for divorcing clients is to consider joint retainment. This is when both parties hire one financial expert. This could alleviate some of the stress that comes with divorce conflicts and help to avoid financial disputes that come up in court. We give the most accurate and reasonable valuation possible, and joint retainment can ultimately be beneficial to both sides.

What type of family law matters do you work on?

David Harkins: I am involved in numerous aspects of litigation-related engagements, but the majority of my work in this area comes back to a business owned by divorcing parties. We can help the business spouse translate their day-to-day operations and cash flows into the valuation and help the non-business spouse understand the key levers that drive the value of the business.

We also provide ancillary services such as setting up the marital balance sheet or assisting in determining a reasonable range for alimony expenses, should it be relevant to the case. While some of this may sound intuitive, we often find having someone well-versed in this area can help put the picture together much more efficiently.

What top three skills or traits do you think someone needs to pursue a role in family law litigation support in a business valuation firm?

David Harkins: Number One is taking notes and juggling many projects at a time because litigation projects can be stop/start. Continuations, attempts to reconcile, and failed mediations can lead to large gaps throughout the normal course of a project or accelerate the timeline of our work. The ability to efficiently transition between projects is valuable, but this is also an underrated benefit of hiring a firm with the appropriate bench of analysts to make sure client needs are met in a timely manner.

Number Two is attention to detail. And Number Three is experts providing litigation support must be reasonable in their conclusions and unbiased in the presentation of their conclusions. Misconstruing opinions as facts can make an expert less reliable to a trier of fact.

What influenced your concentration in the auto dealer industry?

David Harkins: I started following the industry based on the experience of my colleague Scott Womack.

I particularly enjoy the analytical opportunities provided by the dealer financial statements which dealers must report to the manufacturers on a monthly basis. Combining these statements with available benchmarking data from the vast dealership network in the U.S. gives us a good picture of the dealership’s operations before we even get a chance to discuss operations with the dealer principal.

What is the best advice that you received throughout your career?

David Harkins: I find myself holding onto little nuggets from colleagues that have helped my professional development.

“Be an analyst” reminds me to not solely focus on setting up the analytical framework for a project but to make sure our assumptions are reasonable and lead to a conclusion that makes sense.

“Say what you mean” is particularly important in a litigation context to make sure that our opinions are stated plainly. While we want our reports to be well written, it is more important that our conclusions are understood by all parties involved.