Expert Witness Practice
It is easier than ever to find expert witnesses through the internet. You may wish to consult the expert witness directory at ExpertLaw, which allows you to find experts without cost, while avoiding the fees charged by expert witness "referral agencies" or "brokers."
Tips for Attorneys
When you are looking for an expert, seek recommendations from attorneys who have litigated similar cases.
When you hire an expert, be clear about what you expect the expert to do. If you don't discuss the expert's fees, you may be surprised at how much you are billed for the expert's services. Keep the expert appraised of trial dates, so that scheduling conflicts can be resolved early.
Ask an expert for references, and follow up on the references. Find out how well the witness performs at deposition or trial, before making a costly error.
Know how much your expert charges, and when you will have to pay additional charges (such as "rush fees").
Use your expert to help you develop your case. If you know as much or more than your expert, you are wasting your money. Only hire experts who know more than you, and use their knowledge to build your case. For example, experts can often help you draft interrogatories prepare questions to ask at your depositions of your opponent's experts. Although you have to pay the expert for his time, you may find that the time you save is worth far more than the amount you pay. Also, a good expert will come up with questions and theories that you are unlikely to discover on your own, without investing a vast amount of time and energy.
Know the rules of discovery. If your expert prepares a report, know if you will have to turn it over to your opponent. In Michigan, your opponent may not be able to secure an expert's report in civil litigation, but a prosecutor can obtain your expert's report in criminal litigation. Let the expert know what portions of his file constitute "work product," so that confidential material is not accidentally disclosed to your opponent.
Don't prematurely destroy the other side's expert. In one notable case, a bright yet inexperienced attorney did a remarkable job of demolishing the credibility and conclusions of the expert at deposition. At the end of the deposition, he gloated, "If you're going to take this case to trial, you had better get a better expert." The opponent did just that, and won at trial. Had the attorney saved his devastating impeachment for trial, he probably would have won his case.
Cost isn't everything. The least expensive expert I have ever used gave one of the best trial performances I have ever seen. The jury respected him and believed him, and his "plain language" explanation of some complex technical issues was a decisive factor in obtaining a verdict in my client's favor.
Tips for Expert Witnesses
Get a written agreement with the attorney, specifying your rate of compensation. Get a retainer for your services, as you may find it difficult to collect fees later. Your agreement with the attorney should specify that you may refuse to perform additional services if the attorney has not paid your fees for prior services.
Protect your credibility. Tell the attorney, during your first conversation, that you will form an independent opinion based upon the facts, and that there is a possibility that your opinion will not support his client's case. If the attorney is looking for a "hired gun" who will make the facts fit the desired conclusion, you are better off declining the case and preserving your credibility.
Try to maintain balance, by representing both plaintiffs and defendants. If you always represent the same side, you risk looking like a "hired gun," even if you are very careful about the clients and cases you take.
Maintain a list of the articles you have published, and the cases where you have testified. Keep copies of your publications, and of your prior testimony, for your clients to review. An attorney will need that information, in order to prepare for litigation where you may be challenged with your own writings and testimony. If you no longer hold some of the positions you have taken in prior litigation, or in past writings, let your client know so that he is not surprised when opposing counsel attempts to impeach you for "contradicting yourself."
If you are inexperienced as an expert witness, you should know the following for deposition:
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