By James J. Mangraviti, Jr. Esq.
One of the concerns that prospective expert witnesses often express is that “I don’t have time to be in court all the time.” The belief that expert witnesses spend a significant amount of time in court is usually a false one. In fact, for most experts who are retained in civil cases it is very rare for an expert to have to go to court. Typically 95+% of the billable time an expert witness will spend on a civil case will be on activities that can often be done on a flexible schedule and do not involve testifying at trial. These activities include research, reviewing documents, drafting reports, testifying at deposition (which is increasingly done via Zoom), etc. So the short answer to how often an expert has to go to court to testify at trial is usually: not very often.
The reason why most expert witnesses in civil cases spend such little time in court at trials is simple: The vast majority of cases settle prior to the expert witness having to appear at trial.
Cases settle for two reasons. First, trials are outrageously expensive. Lawyers are paid by the hour and it can take many, many hours by multiple lawyers to prepare for and try a case. Second, jury trials are notoriously unpredictable and thus very risky. The litigants and lawyers never know what a jury is going to do. The above two facts cause the vast majority of civil cases to settle before expert witness are needed to come to court and testify.
Conclusion: If you are considering becoming an expert witness you shouldn’t be overly concerned as to how often you need to go to court. Expert witnesses in civil cases typically spend a very small percentage (less than 5%) of their billable time testifying in court as an expert witness at trial. This is because trials are very expensive and risky and most cases settle before expert witness trial testimony in court is needed. The vast majority of time expert witnesses in civil cases typically spend on an engagement are on activities that allow far more flexibility in scheduling than going to court.
James J. Mangraviti, Jr., Esq., has trained thousands of expert witnesses through seminars, conferences, corporate training, training for professional societies, and training for governmental agencies including the FBI, SEC, IRS, NYPD, Secret Service, and Department of Defense. He is a former litigator with experience in defense and plaintiff personal injury law and insurance law who currently serves as Principal of the expert witness training company SEAK, Inc. Mr. Mangraviti received his BA degree in mathematics summa cum laude from Boston College and his JD degree cum laude from Boston College Law School. He is the co-author of 31 books, including: How to Write and Expert Witness Report; How to Be a Successful Expert Witness: SEAK’s A-Z Guide to Expert Witnessing, How to Be an Effective Expert Witness at Deposition and Trial: The SEAK Guide to Testifying as an Expert Witness. Mr. Mangraviti was the co-founder in 2000 of SEAK’s Expert Witness Directory. Mr. Mangraviti has designed dozens of expert witness training programs and has personally taught experts in a group setting over 200 times since 1997. He can be reached at 978-276-1234 or firstname.lastname@example.org .