By James J. Mangraviti, Jr., Esq.
I have had the pleasure of teaching and advising expert witnesses for a long time. One of the most frequently asked questions I get from clients and students is how to obtain more defense expert witness work. Note that when I refer to “defense expert witness work” in this post I am referring to civil lawsuits not criminal cases.
Advantages of Defense Expert Witness Work
There are two main reasons why experts may prefer defense expert witness work.
- There are overall fewer problems with getting paid when doing defense expert witness work. Civil lawsuits are often defended by law firms paid for by deep pocket entities such as insurance companies and corporations. On the other hand, plaintiff cases are often taken on a contingency by lawyers who represent clients who have little to no net worth. In addition, many plaintiff’s lawyers may be underfunded. Expert witnesses who work for plaintiff lawyers commonly report frustrations with obtaining payment for their time. As a matter of fact, non-payment by plaintiff’s lawyers of fees incurred is the #1 problem and frustration that our expert witness clients report to us. We almost never hear of an insurance company not paying at the end of the day. That said, insurance companies can be notorious for slow payment, sometimes taking many months to pay a bill.
- Some experts may be more comfortable performing defense expert witness work. This is especially true in cases dealing with professional negligence. Some experts can be understandably hesitant to criticize a colleague and thus they prefer defense expert witness work.
Getting More Defense Expert Witness Work
As discussed above, defense expert witness work is often more desirable for experts than plaintiff work. This means that experts seeking defense work have more competition and as such defense law firms can be far more selective when hiring expert witnesses. The below strategies are options for obtaining additional defense expert witness work.
- Take plaintiff cases and excel at them. Lawyers are paid to win. In order to have the best chance of winning, lawyers will seek out the most effective experts they can find – especially in high value cases. The #1 way to obtain defense expert witness work is to impress the living daylights out of defense counsel when you have been retained by the plaintiff. This involves delivering stand-out opinions, reports, and testimony. Defense lawyers will be sure to take note of an opposing expert who hurts their case by being particularly effective. Next time around they will want that expert on their side.
A common misconception we see is that experts assume they are great at expert witnessing because they are very accomplished in their field. This is simply not the case. Being accomplished in one’s field is just a prerequisite to being an expert witness. Becoming a stand-out expert witness requires the expert learning and developing the special nuanced skills to produce opinions, reports, and testimony at the highest level.
Here’s a simple litmus test to see if you are producing stand-out work as an expert witness. If you have been doing plaintiff work for a number of years and your defense work has not taken off as well – you are, in all likelihood, not impressing the defense lawyers. The remedy to this situation is both simple and effective. Make a concerted effort to learn how to be a more effective expert witness.
- Don’t take controversial pro-plaintiff positions. If you are an expert who has given controversial pro-plaintiff opinions, you are unlikely to get defense expert witness work. An example of this could be a medical doctor testifying that a person who had a minor soft tissue back injury will require extensive medical care and can never work again.
- Reach out to defense lawyers. Defense lawyers can be contacted directly via email and direct mail. Defense lawyers can be identified by word of mouth, networking, Google searches, and legal directories such as Martindale-Hubbell. You can tactfully write to them to let them know that you are available to serve as an expert witness.
- Advertise or publish in defense publications such as For the Defense. Opportunities exist to get in front of defense lawyers by publishing or advertising in the journals they read. For example, For the Defense is the journal of the Defense Research Institute – the flagship professional association for defense lawyers.
- Speak to Groups of Defense Lawyers or Exhibit at Their Conferences. DRI is the national organization of civil defense lawyers. Most states also have associations of civil defense lawyers, for example the Massachusetts Defense Lawyers Association. Try to get speaking gigs in front of these groups or exhibit at their conferences.
The single most effective way to get more defense expert witness work is quite simple. Make a name for yourself as a highly-effective expert witness. Lawyers talk to each other frequently and will share the names of experts they consider to be the best in an area.
Experienced expert witnesses who have developed a reputation of being highly-effective don’t have to seek out defense work. The work comes to them from word of mouth. If you are currently doing expert witness plaintiff work and are not getting a good volume of defense expert witness work, it’s probably time to learn how to up your game.
About the Author
James J. Mangraviti, Jr., Esq., has been teaching expert witness marketing for over 25 years and has written extensively about expert witness marketing. He is a Principal of SEAK, Inc – The Expert Witness Training Company. Jim has worked individually with numerous experts on their expert witness marketing. He is the co-founder of SEAK’s National Directory of Expert Witnesses, the #1 rated expert witness directory. Jim can be reached at 978-276-1234 or email@example.com. For more information on SEAK, Inc. – The Expert Witness Training Company, visit www.testifyingtraining.com