Hiring an Expert? Don't Ignore This Advice

By Robert Ambrogi Esq
The one time veteran employment litigator Jeffrey E. Myers ignored his own rule about hiring an expert, it almost cost him his case. It is a mistake he won't ever make again.

"Never rely on someone else to make the final selection of your expert – especially someone you don't have a close relationship with," advises Myers, a partner with Blank Rome LLP in Philadelphia.

In selecting an expert, he believes, the most important consideration is that the lawyer and the expert have "absolute personal comfort and rapport" with each other. The only way to be sure of that, he adds, is through an in-depth, face-to-face interview before you hire the expert.

That is why Myers' gut told him to be careful when he allowed local counsel in a sexual harassment trial he was defending to select the psychological expert. The expert had been described as "the best in town," but when Myers questioned the sloppiness of the expert's report, he recalls, the expert "flipped out on me."

Fortunately for Myers, it happened far enough before trial for him to bring in another expert – one he had worked with before.

Then, in an uncanny turn of events, the plaintiff's expert flipped – only this time the flip came in the middle of trial. Under cross-examination by Myers – one his replacement expert helped prepare – the plaintiff's psychological expert admitted that nothing Myers' client had done had contributed to the woman's emotional state.

In speaking to plaintiff's counsel afterwards, Myers learned that he had made the same mistake – failing to interview the expert extensively beforehand.

For Myers, this case drives home his belief that a lawyer must establish for himself that he has absolute confidence in the expert. "There has to be that confidence and rapport," he says.

The only way to establish that confidence is through face-to-face interviews, he believes. "When you interview someone, you know whether you have a rapport with them." Consider also whether the expert is suitable for the audience you will face in the courtroom and will be sensitive to that audience.

For lawyers who have not had substantial experience hiring experts, Myers advises that they be candid in the interview. "Lay your cards on the table. Be up front about your own experience or lack of experience. Ask the expert, 'How will you support me and help me win this case?'"

At all costs, avoid experts who come across in the interview as arrogant and patronizing, Myers says, because that is how they will come across to the jury.

"At the end of the day, the client has to be served," Myers notes. "If an expert is going to play ego games, walk away."

Jeffrey Myers is a Partner at Blank Rome, LLP in Philadelphia and can be reached at 215-569-5500.

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Robert Ambrogi Esq

We are proud to partner with an author of Bob’s caliber to provide exclusive articles for our legal clients and leading industry experts. Robert J. Ambrogi is a news media veteran and the only person ever to hold the top editorial positions at the two leading national U.S. legal newspapers, the National Law Journal and Lawyers Weekly USA. He is currently a Massachusetts lawyer who represents clients at the intersection of law, media and technology. He is also internationally known for his writing and blogging about the Internet and technology. Media and Technology Law Bob represents a range of businesses and individuals, concentrating in print and electronic media companies and the editorial, sales, marketing and technology professionals who work in them. He also counsels businesses and individuals in employment matters. Arbitration and Mediation An established professional in alternative dispute resolution, Bob has been an arbitrator since 1994, focusing on labor and employment and securities disputes. A mediator in a range of civil disputes, Bob completed the training required by Massachusetts law to protect confidentiality.

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