By James J. Mangraviti, Jr.
One of the most common sets of questions we receive from our expert witness clients have to do with collections:
“I am having trouble getting paid as an expert witness, what do I do?”
“How can an expert witness make retaining counsel pay what he/she is owed?”
“What do I do when a lawyer refuses to pay me for my expert witness work?”
“How do I as an expert witness collect overdue bills?”
When it comes to expert witnessing and collection of fees, the most important thing to remember is prevention. There are many steps you as an expert witness can take before the problem develops to avoid the issue all together. Your first line of defense in this regards is well written expert witness retention contract that protects your rights such as SEAK’s standard expert witness retention contract.
If an expert needs to collect an overdue fee, however, this can be a time consuming and often frustrating process. This is especially true for experts who are one person shops and don’t have an accounts receivable person to assist with collections.
One facilitator to collecting an expert witness fee was brought to my attention by one of my clients this weekend (a brilliant physician who is a leader in adapting technology to assist his expert witness practice). That technique is to use a virtual assistant to help collect your expert witness fee. How can this help?
Non or slow payment issues for expert witnesses can often be placed into two buckets. The first are attorneys who refuse to pay because they are either dishonest or they are disputing your bills. The second bucket is where your invoice is either lost in a black hole or it has been purposefully deprioritized by the firms accounts payable department. This latter, more common, category is where a virtual assistant can help.
The first step in collecting an overdue invoice for expert witnessing is to figure out who in the law firm is responsible for paying the bill. Next, you would want to make sure they have the bill. Finally, you would want to let that person know that the invoice is overdue and that you are owed payment.
These steps can be time consuming involving voice mail and call backs. A busy expert’s time is probably better spent on billable endeavors. Here’s where the virtual assistant comes in. Your virtual assistant can figure out who has the bill and that it has been received and request payment for you for very short money. Our client who has introduced me to this process has been using Fancy Hands for his virtual assistant and his return on his meager investment has been huge in saved time, collected money, and saved aggravation. I am sure there are many other virtual assistant services available to an expert.
One of the biggest problems an expert in a solo practice has is leveraging himself. A virtual assistant can be a viable way to do so. Such a virtual assistant can be highly effective is assisting in collections of unpaid expert witness fees.
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, IRS, NYPD, Secret Service, and Department of Defense. He is also frequently called by experts, their employers, and retaining counsel to train and prepare individual expert witnesses for upcoming testimony. Mr. Mangraviti assists expert witnesses one-on-one with report writing, mentoring, and practice development. He is a former litigator who currently serves as Principal of the expert witness training company SEAK, Inc. (www.testifyingtraining.com). 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. 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 is the co-author of thirty books, including:
How to Be an Effective Expert Witness at Deposition and Trial: The SEAK Guide to Testifying as an Expert Witness How to Be a Successful Expert Witness: SEAK’s A–Z Guide to Expert Witnessing How to Write an Expert Witness Report; How to Prepare Your Expert Witness for Deposition; The Biggest Mistakes Expert Witnesses Make and How to Avoid Them; and How to Market Your Expert Witness Practice: Evidence-Based Best Practices.
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