Locating the Right Expert… Is It Like Looking for a Needle in a Haystack?
(a) Classes of expert witnesses in academia, working professionals, and
full time professional experts. These are the three primary areas from which you are likely to obtain experts in anticipation of litigation. Each has its advantages and disadvantages as discussed below.
(b) Referrals from other attorneys. This is my preferred method. It’s like
buying a used car that someone else has already checked out and driven over rough terrain. They will often have past depositions or trial testimony you can read. They can effectively sum up the witness’s strengths and weaknesses so you know what to expect.
(c) Expert witness locating services. Not my favorite, but they can be very helpful in locating persons with obscure areas of expertise or in litigation local experts dare not become involved due to peer pressure such as in professional negligence cases. The fees charged by the experts are substantially higher because the service tacks on
substantial hourly surcharges. However, such services typically vet the experts and can
provide you with sample reports or depositions.
(d) Local universities and colleges. This is a great source for top-notch professors. Local professors are knowledgeable, well read and well versed on the latest
developments in their fields. They are usually skilled at teaching and have experience in
educating and helping others understand difficult and technical topics. Often they have
written in your field of study at issue. The most common drawback is the fact that they
sometimes lack the practical background and work experience. Also, because they have
published, opposing counsel can use your expert’s own material to impeach them and exploit their beliefs and positions against your client’s claim.
(e) Authors of authoritative textbooks. The principles outlined above are
equally applicable here. Such experts are conservative. They value their position and reputation as an expert in their field. They can make excellent consultants and assist you
in locating testimonial experts given their knowledge and connections.
(f) Authors of journal articles. The principles outlined above are equally applicable here. When dealing with more obscure topics they can be very helpful assuming they have written on the topic at issue. However, they may never have testified
before. Are they quick on their feet? Are they good under pressure? Will they stay poised? Do they lack practical experience needed to give them credibility? Screening and preparing such witnesses can be critical if they lack experience testifying in court or
in a deposition.
(g) Leaders in business or industry. Such persons are natural leaders and
may have personality and charisma which may be lacking in some academic type. They
may be well known locally and respected. They have practical experience that may trump
the theoretical musings of those in academia. These aforementioned weaknesses in some
instances are the business leaders’ strengths. Will they come across more as an advocate
than as an impartial expert? Will they fall into the trap of sparring with opposing counsel
and lose their composure? Are they venerable to attacks because they are not as well
versed or updated in the area or field at issue? Again, screening and preparing such witnesses can be critical if they lack experience testifying in court or in a deposition.
(h) Skilled witnesses. These are persons already involved in the case. They
should not be overlooked. They have practical experience in your case. They may also
fall within some of the other categories outlined above which further weighs in their favor. Fate chose them, not you. They thereby avoid the stigma of being considered a “
(g) Expert Witness Firms. Such persons are full-time “expert witnesses”
and are hired guns. That being said, if they have a good reputation for being honest brokers they can be excellent choices. They are battle tested and know how to handle the
pressure of a deposition or testifying at trial. They will be more skilled at dealing with trial tactics and better capable of maintaining their composure even if something goes
awry during their testimony. You want to avoid such experts if they are known as “
whores.” They will have a wealth of prior testimony that can be used against them
which could render them impudent as a credible expert. Screening is critical.
I hope this information helps you locate the best expert witness for your case.