When you’re an expert witness, standing out among the competition and finding long-term success is no easy task.
As a consulting firm constantly working with attorneys and their witnesses, we at Litigation Insights have heard, and seen, the horror stories: Witnesses can be tough to work with, exhibit behaviors and body language that damage their credibility, and/or struggle to present their ideas to a layman audience in an understandable, persuasive way. These problems only compound with experts, who tend to provide crucial testimony on particularly dense material.
Indeed, too often, attorneys tell us an expert will pass the interview with flying colors, only to disappoint with his or her report and testimony performance. And in a profession where word of mouth can make all the difference, knowing how to build a reputation as a valuable, dependable asset is paramount to your lasting success. You’re relying on repeat hires.
Naturally, newcomers must learn how to navigate the business, legal, and ethical considerations of working as an expert witness. A great CV can open the door to a number of opportunities. But the real key to success as an expert witness is about far more than getting, or even nailing, the interview. As an expert witness you’ll need to be able to perform not only as an outstanding expert, but also a confident, proficient witness. This means building credibility with your audience, developing persuasive themes, using graphics to break down complex concepts visually, and more.
There is a whole lot to know to excel on both fronts, so for those looking to become an expert witness, or veterans looking to hone their skills, I thought I’d provide below a general outline (including links) to guide your further study. [As we develop additional content relevant to this outline, we’ll update these links accordingly.]
What Expert Witnesses Need to Know & Practice
- Your Role as an Expert Witness in Civil Litigation
- The trial process
- How to properly define your area(s) of expertise/practice
- Business aspects (i.e., setting your fee)
- Developing a Great Curriculum Vitae
- What are attorneys looking for in an expert witness?
- What should and should not be included, and why?
- What additional features you can include to bolster your credibility
- Developing & Communicating Your Opinions
- How to form defensible opinions
- Understanding the standards that govern your opinion
- Essentials of an Expert Witness Report
- Key elements of Deposition and Trial Testimony
- Increasing Your Credibility with Your Audience – Judge, Jury, or Arbitrator
- What are decision makers’ attitudes toward, and expectations for, experts?
- Building credibility
- How to keep decision makers’ attention and increase persuasion
- Avoiding Ethical Issues & Maintaining Integrity
- The attorney-expert relationship
- Making sure they are your opinions, not your attorney’s
- Knowing when to say “No”
- Fee structure
In this blog, I’ve tried to provide a number of resources to help interested parties learn more about how to become a successful expert witness.
But, for a comprehensive discussion of each of these elements, I also invite you to check out this webinar hosted by myself and amazing trial attorney Mr. Joseph Price (Senior Counsel at Faegre Drinker). The webinar covers the entire outline above, in detail. Viewers will hear from Mr. Price exactly what attorneys are looking for when they hire, how to put together a stand-out resume, how to develop defensible positions, and how to maintain objectivity. Meanwhile, I discuss how to communicate dense subject matter to an audience, with behaviors that build credibility and language that listeners can understand.
I hope you find these resources helpful as you continue along your path to becoming a successful expert witness.
By: Merrie Jo Pitera, Ph.D. – CEO