Hiring an expert witness should involve more than a mere scan of a candidate’s résumé and a brief telephone conversation. Successful attorneys become skilled at focusing on the intangibles of an individual, as well as the tangibles, to determine suitability. To this end, we have compiled a list of 5 lessons learned when hiring an expert witness from an interview with Jeffrey E. Myers, a veteran employment litigator, by Robert Ambrogi.
- Don’t let others pick your expert. Whether it is your co-counsel, local counsel, or even an associate, they may not be as intimate with the case details as you. Unless you have the utmost confidence in the person selecting the expert, never risk your case on someone else’s expert.
- Face-to-face interviews are a must. Lay it out there – facts, expectations, reservations – hold nothing back and cover all the bases. This is the most critical time you may ever spend with an expert. Use the face-to-face interview to identify problems, establish expectations and clarify any nebulous points. Upon conclusion, you should be confident you have the right person for the case.
- Don’t play ego games. If an expert comes off as arrogant or patronizing, it could spell doom for your case. Many times, this attitude will surface during trial or other critical junctions and can leave carnage in its wake. Ultimately, the client’s needs must be met, and if an expert can’t satisfy those needs, then walk away.
- Develop a good rapport. You must have absolute confidence in your expert. Many veteran attorneys believe the only way to develop that confidence is by developing a good rapport with their expert. This can be achieved by conducting an in-depth interview to reveal demeanor, appearance, suitability and more. Your case could live or die by this person’s word. Thus, ensuring a good rapport is critical to a positive working relationship.
- Always trust your gut. Your gut is your sixth sense – trust it. If something just seems “off” about a candidate then cut them lose. Remember, the outcome of your case may depend upon his/her opinion or testimony. Smart attorneys utilize every resource to determine the adequacy of an expert to minimize the possibility of hiring a bad expert. At the end of the day, bad experts don’t lose cases – attorneys who select bad experts do.
Ultimately, selecting an expert witness involves balancing a number of factors and considerations. The final selection should always be made sans haste and with the client in mind. Incorporate these lessons into your expert selection criteria and you will engage better, more reliable expert witnesses.
Tell us: What are some ways that help you hire better expert witnesses?