We at SEAK are often asked by new experts should I get some expert witness training before accepting cases. The short answer is yes. As an expert witness you will be expected by counsel who is retaining you to be conversant and familiar with many aspects of expert witness practice.
Technically, anyone can usually be an expert witness in their given field, as they qualify due to their knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education. This does not mean however, they will be an effective expert. It simply means they can usually qualify as an expert.
The expert witnessing field is a highly competitive industry with fees ranging from a few hundred dollars per hour to $1,000/hr+. And to make matters a bit more challenging for the experts, the retaining lawyers, generally do not help the experts through the process. They expect that you have a fundamental understanding of the process and procedures as it pertains to being an expert witness. Put yourself in the attorney’s shoes for a moment, would you prefer to hire an expert who has no formal training as an expert, or would you rather hire an expert who has taken courses and has been taught about the process, procedures, etc.
This includes at a minimum:
1. Having a bullet-proof Curriculum Vitae (CV) that will stand up under cross-examination.
2. Having an expert witness retention contract which provides for payment and other crucial terms which will protect you during your engagement (1)
3. Having a 26(b) statement with your prior testimony listed
4. Understanding the requirements for an expert witness report which complies with the State/Federal law.
5. Having an understanding of your rights and obligations when you testify at your deposition/trial.
6. Knowing what is to be expected from you with regard to your interaction with retaining and opposing counsel.
7. Understanding how to form and express your expert witness opinions so that they are admissible and defensible.
8. Your ethical obligations as an expert witness.
9. How to effectively testify at your deposition and/or trial
10. What you can and should not bill for, what is a reasonable rate to charge and how to make sure you get paid in a prompt fashion.
These are just some of the areas you should feel comfortable with before accepting your first case. Experts can try to learn these items by trial and error. The problem with this technique is that it is slow, expensive and when you make a major mistake, it can adversely impact your entire expert witness career.
We at SEAK, The Expert Witness Training Company have been training and assisting expert witness for over 30 years. To get started we recommend you consider the following course: How To Start, Build, and Run a Successful Expert Witness Practice.
Excerpted from the course:
Excellent and ethical legal consultants can easily double their income by devoting one day a week to expert witnessing. Time spent by experts on such matters is commonly billed out at $250–$500 or more per hour. This course is appropriate for professionals with all levels of legal-consulting experience including prospective and novice expert witnesses. Attendees will learn from an experienced faculty in a step-by-step fashion how to start, build, and run a successful and ethical expert witness practice. New experts should be ready to start accepting cases immediately upon completion of the course.
At the completion of this course you will learn:
- The role of expert witnesses in civil litigation
- What attorneys are looking for from their experts
- How to properly define your area(s) of expertise and practice areas
- How to draft a curriculum vitae appropriate for expert witness work
- How to get cases
- How to avoid ethical problems and maintain your integrity
- The essentials of expert witness report writing
- How to set your fee and collect it
- What to bill for and when
- How to draft a retention agreement to protect your rights
- How to form defensible opinions
- Techniques for maintaining your independence and objectivity
- How to exceed expectations
- How to build a tremendous reputation
- Expert witness risk management techniques.
Click here to view our current expert witness training schedule
In addition, here are a few of the SEAK products to help you get started until you can make it to the course:
(1) SEAK Expert Witness Retention Contract
(2) SEAK Text: How To Be A Successful Expert Witness: The A-Z Guide to Expert Witnessing
(3) SEAK Expert Witness Starters Pack
For further information you can contact Steven Babitsky Esq, SEAK President at Stevenbabitsky@SEAK.com or at 508-548-9443