The most important conversation you have with your expert witness should be the first. A number of key topics must be discussed to ensure clarity and avoid confusion.
As an attorney, you should take the opportunity to lay out precisely what you expect of the expert – and to determine what the expert expects in return. This conversation should cover a wide range of topics and form the foundation of your working relationship.
According to an interview with expert Laura J. Borrelli, by Robert Ambrogi, the topics that should be covered at the outset are:
Theme of the case – many experts appreciate it when attorneys explain their view of a case’s principal theme. Discussing this up front avoids misunderstandings later, when time is tight.
Timing and schedule – let your expert know what to expect as far in advance as possible. Experts dislike phone calls at 8pm on Friday night for something due Monday, when the same request could have been made on Wednesday.
Documentation – attorneys and firms differ in their procedures for documenting conversations and other matters involving an expert. Clearly communicate your expectations for documentation to the expert.
Communication – some attorneys want everything by e-mail, others will accept nothing by e-mail. Be sure the expert knows your preferences for conveying messages and transmitting documents at the beginning of the relationship.
Local rules and customs – attorneys should explain local rules/customs that are dictated by the court or by local practice that may be unbeknownst to the expert.
Format – every firm has its own preferences for the format of an expert's report, right down to line spacing and margins. Review your preferences with the expert up front and save time and expense later on.
Scope of discovery – make sure the expert understands the scope of discovery. Experts may not be knowledgeable of the latest rule changes regarding discovery.
Billing – some attorneys prefer highly detailed invoices, others prefer no detail at all. Spell this out for your expert.
"Leave any of these topics unaddressed up front and they may come back to haunt you later," Ambrogi explains. Thus, the key to achieving a positive and useful working relationship with your expert is to communicate early and often.
Taken in part from “Don’t Keep Your Expert in the Dark,” an IMS ExpertServices e-publication edited by Robert Ambrogi.