Time management is crucial to attorneys. Deadlines change, situations arise out of nowhere, and cases can turn at the drop of a hat. It is not surprising that some things fall off the radar, and one commonly overlooked area is retaining and working with an expert witness.
There are many ways to approach working with an expert, and as the world’s first expert witness search firm, we recognize the importance of managing time so that experts feel respected and empowered to succeed. The following five tips will go a long way in making sure that legal teams can engage the best possible expert without hiccups along the way.
All litigators are working within the restraint of deadlines. External forces impact when specific elements of work are expected to be finalized such as deposition dates, trial dates, or even budgets. While this is common knowledge among legal teams, sometimes these deadlines are not clearly communicated with expert witnesses.
In order to help experts succeed, it is critical to notify them of expected timelines and deadlines. Legal teams should prioritize this communication and do their best to provide visibility as far in advance of any applicable deadlines as reasonably possible. These deadlines impact designation, reports, testimony, and more.
Highly sought-after expert witnesses are often the ones that lead active professional lives outside of the courtroom. They are busy furthering their expertise in the field daily, which is why their perspective is so valuable on legal matters. While many of these experts are enthusiastic about the prospect of legal work, their regular obligations may prevent them from responding immediately to your inquiries regarding their interest in a project or starting work on your project the day you retain them.
We implore legal teams to approach all expert retentions with the recognition that it might take time to hear back from experts. This is true of the most qualified, interested, available, and conflict-free experts. It doesn’t matter who the expert is, there should be an understanding that formalizing retention can take time.
This potential for delay is why we suggest that legal teams don’t hold out on retention when the right expert comes along. The longer that attorneys wait to finalize an expert witness engagement, the more of a risk there is that the expert will commit to other work that might keep them from signing onto a case.
Every expert is different and brings a different approach to their work. This can be seen across all steps in the process of legal work, including the negotiation of retention contracts. Some experts really weigh the nuances of a contract, while others have their minimal set of requirements. Some legal firms also have requirements that may need to be reviewed by an expert during the contracting stage. A common example of this is travel expense restrictions, which an expert must understand prior to retention.
Legal teams should allocate some time for contract negotiations, just in case some back and forth before finalizing an agreement is required. This expectation ensures that neither the attorney’s client nor the expert feels rushed into an engagement, and legal teams don’t miss deadlines due to unexpected negotiations.
Far too often, we see situations in which an expert doesn’t feel that they are up to date with developments in the retention process or a case overall. Sometimes an expert witness is told that they are going to be retained, and then an attorney goes silent for an extended period with no status updates.
While an expert should understand that retentions are not finalized immediately, legal teams should do their best to keep experts informed. Deadlines might be missed, and dates are bound to be moved around, however, clear communication sets the expert’s expectations. The last thing an attorney wants is to find the perfect expert, only to lose them to other work because of a lack of communication.
When there is a short timeline to designate an expert or have work completed, legal teams should consider that experts usually expect an expedited retainer. Most experts will have a little flexibility here and will start work without having received it, as long as it’s being processed in good faith. However, some experts won’t start work until the retainer has been received. This is especially true of experts that have had issues receiving retainers promptly in the past.
Short deadlines should result in an expedited retainer process, getting the retainer in the expert’s hands as quickly as possible. These scenarios are not just business as usual and require an understanding of expert expectations.
Round Table Group has decades of experience working with attorneys and experts and handling contracting and retention issues. Once we find you the right expert, we help make the process as smooth as possible.
As pioneers of the expert witness search industry, Round Table Group has spent the last 26 years connecting attorneys with their ideal experts. If you’d like to discuss a current expert witness, or simply learn more about our approach to expert witness search and referral, contact us at (202) 804-0257.