Managing Partner and CEO, Weaver

Lawler, 53, has been with Fort Worth-based Weaver—formerly Weaver and Tidwell LLP—since 1979. Ranked as the largest independent certified public accounting firm in the Southwest, Weaver has about 400 employees and offices in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. With clients in the manufacturing, oil and gas, financial services, real estate, medical, and public sectors, Weaver’s current fiscal-year revenue is projected to be $58 million.

1. What are you seeing out there these days, in terms of the economy?

It varies, depending on the industry segment. Our manufacturing clients are still at all-time lows and there’s been no uptick, for example. Real estate has been the most troublesome sector, but we are starting to see credit loosen. There are better prospects for the energy industry.

2. Have the big national accounting firms encroached on your territory in recent years?

I think so. Business got red-hot for everybody after the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley [the public company accounting reform and investor protection act, in 2002]. But Sarbanes-Oxley work at the biggest national accounting firms—who focused on Fortune 500 clients—soaked up a lot of people and resources. Now, with the slowdown in economic growth, the people resources are more in sync with demand, and the big firms have been able to deploy their people elsewhere. So we’re seeing increased competition.

3. Is Sarbanes-Oxley still of major concern to companies?

It hasn’t gone away. It was a typical government solution that didn’t take the cost/benefit analysis into account. But companies figured, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Sarbanes work has slowed by 50 percent over the last five years, though. There was overkill at the beginning but also, over time, companies became more efficient. Even so, I think we are one crisis away from going into panic mode again. While things have vastly improved, I expect more regulations down the pike. The good part for CPAs is that more regulation usually leads to more work for us.

4. Are you doing much consulting work?

We’re consulting for public companies—large employers, especially in the energy area. We do consulting for Range Resources, for example. We also do consulting for a large percentage of school districts, including the Fort Worth and Arlington independent school districts.

5. What’s your economic forecast for Weaver—and for the economy in general?

I’m not as good as The Amazing Kreskin, but … I think there are a lot of opportunities out there for well-managed firms with good clients. I’ve been here for 30 years and have gone through several natural business cycles, and this is one of them. Fortunately we haven’t been affected in Texas this time like they have been on the East and West coasts. I’m an optimistic person, and I don’t see doom and gloom on the horizon that some do. Business cycles come and go. The sun will shine again.