When Lori Liddell’s uncle, a CPA, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at the beginning of her master’s in accounting (MAcc) program, she decided that she would get her own CPA before he passed. In just five months, she had taken and passed all four parts of the exam.
Senior Manager, Fraud, Forensic and Litigation
Lori’s uncle saw the value of having an accounting degree and CPA license first-hand and wanted his children to follow in his footsteps. His kids ultimately chose different career paths, but his niece Lori decided she was going to do it. “I was always interested in school projects involving accounting. It came naturally to me, and I enjoyed it,” says Lori.
Lori’s uncle wasn’t the only one who encouraged her to get her CPA. “My professor would say until we took and passed the exam, we were all just over-educated bookkeepers." For Lori, the question wasn’t why take the exam, but rather, why would you not take the exam? She saw that the possibilities for licensed CPAs are endless.
As she wrapped up her undergraduate degree in accounting with plans to begin her master’s program, Lori discovered that her uncle was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and had only six months to live. “I felt like he would not make it before I passed the exam. After I finished my 150 credit hours, I pushed myself to pass the exam before he passed away.”
Determined to have something to share with him, she set her sights on the CPA Exam. She completed grad school and accepted a full-time offer in a public accounting firm. Lori would study in the evenings, after work, and, frankly, whenever she could find a free moment. She spent her lunch breaks looking over her flash cards. “If I had a break, even if it were 10 minutes, I would glance at my Becker book. If I couldn’t repeat the information back to someone, I didn’t know it well enough.” Even when she wasn’t studying, she was constantly thinking about whatever topic her next exam was on.
In just five short months, Lori passed all four parts of the CPA exam – an impressive feat. Lori’s uncle ended up living a few years longer than the doctor’s original timeline. In those years, he was always talking about how proud he was of Lori for becoming a CPA.
As the Senior Manager of Fraud, Forensic and Litigation Services at HORNE LLP, Lori gets to do many things for her job. Working with a wide variety of clients means she might embrace her inner “Sherlock Holmes” and track down evidence of fraud one day and assign a monetary value to a company the next. Liddell enjoys diverse challenges, but the most exciting part of her job is testifying as an expert in court. “Some people would not want to be in that kind of situation [testifying in a courtroom]. I’m like, sure, I'll sit here and be questioned by an attorney for an hour.” Lori says that testifying is an opportunity to go into the courtroom and show a different side of accounting. “When you're testifying,” she says, “you're advocating for your opinion.”
If you’re on the path to becoming a CPA, Lori has a message for you: “Be different, break those stereotypes, and own your career. It's your career, and it's what you make of it. Do your research and find out where your passions lie. Your choice should be based on how passionate you are about what you're doing. You'll reach your full potential when you care about what you're doing.”
ThisWayToCPA has a wealth of resources for you to use and get a better idea of all that’s out there for CPAs. Lori recommends checking out:
5am: Morning workout
I'm not a gym person, so this may include a leisurely "jog" around the neighborhood, followed by some light weights. If I don't get chased by a neighbor's cat or spot a random deer, it's a good morning. I usually follow up with an unhealthy breakfast, which defeats the whole purpose.
8am: Arrive at the office
My commute is minimal, so I'm usually able to arrive at the office in relatively no time. I begin the day by checking my email and look at what's all on my to-do list for the day.
10am: Weekly departmental meeting
I meet with the rest of the department to see what everyone is working on and where projects are in the pipeline. It's also a good time to see if staffing needs adjusting and to bounce questions off the group to encourage group discussion.
11am: Reading and writing
The work I do usually involves a ton of reading, be it complaints or other documents or other court documents. I also write reports regarding our findings from an accounting perspective.
To save money, I often bring my lunch and eat in the office break room with my friends where we can catch up on how our mornings have gone. We lovingly refer to it as "church", and discuss everything from television shows to sports, to random topics of the day in pop culture. It's a great way to decompress. Sometimes, I miss this lunch when I have webinars for continuing professional education (CPE) credit.
2pm: Client meeting
This is usually a conference call with a client to discuss where we are on the case. Because I primarily work in forensic accounting, the calls are usually with the attorney who is representing the underlying client. This is usually an opportunity to discuss case strategy and update the client on any findings we may have preliminarily reached.
5pm: Daily review
Before I leave for the day, I make a note of what remains undone on my to-do list and decide if it needs to be pushed to the next day. It's also at this point that I determine if any work is needed for my NABA chapter, AICPA committee, or state society committee.
6pm: Dance practice
I teach dance to girls ages 5-14 at my church, and we practice twice per week for nine months out of the year. I'm able to take my mind off the wonderful world of accounting by hearing how challenging it is as a 10-year-old.
8pm: Personal time
On an average day, I cook dinner and catch up on phone conversations with friends. I also watch television, but it's usually something previously recorded.