Accountants are the butt of jokes, the last people on earth to get sympathy - but absolutely vital to business.
Goodness me, have I just said something nice about the profession?
I must have finally flipped. But actually I do have sympathy for them as gold-digging, often incompetent companies and organisations, go on financial fishing trips in the hope that accountants are a soft touch.
In part, it is all the fault of accountants themselves.
Never very willing to be open and frank, they have often in the past preferred to settle both disputes with clients, and deal with any dodgy behaviour of their own people, behind closed doors, so fearful are they of their reputation.
Now the law suits are increasingly out in the open.
We had the example this week of troubled mutual Equitable Life abandoning its loss of sale claim against its former auditors Ernst & Young, reducing the value of its action from £2 billion to £700 million.
An E&Y spokesman said: "We have always maintained this was a case that should never have been brought."
But the trouble is - they are being brought.
And one day one of the "Big Four" - Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, KPMG, E&Y and Deloitte - could go bankrupt, much in the way Arthur Andersen disappeared from the world stage. That would be disastrous.
With hindsight the regulators should never have allowed the circumstances to arise in which the "Big Six" became the "Big Four". Not much they could have done about the sordid practices which brought down the secretive Andersen, but I bet they wish they had never allowed the merger of Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand.
No surprise then that the Department of Trade and Industry is pressing ahead with plans to protect auditors from lawsuits amid fears the current system could claim another scalp.
Until now, accounting firms have faced unlimited liability for business collapses following an audit failure, but company law reforms that will go to Parliament this autumn instead propose liability according to the extent of blame. This so-called proportionate liability aims to prevent collapses such as that of Andersen, former auditor of fallen energy giant Enron, lest the number of accounting firms is reduced to a noncompetitive oligopoly.
The decision is a relief to auditors, who say the law until now has made them an easy target of lawsuits in the aftermath of corporate collapses.
"We are the deep pockets left after the actual perpetrators have left, or if they have no assets," KPMG'S UK head of risk management, Neil Lerner, said.
Accounting firms face a quid pro quo in getting what they wanted, however, seeing for the first time prison sentences for recklessness. At present, they only face criminal charges for deliberate fraud or theft.
Trade body, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, claims this could have the unintended consequence of " encouraging a tick box approach to auditing". Nevertheless, it's the best deal on the table.