Here at Round Table Group, we have the privilege of sharing some amazing conversations with experienced and knowledgeable expert witnesses. There is so much to learn from these professionals, as they have put in the hours and delivered beyond expectations for our law firm clients.
We recently had one such conversation with insurance claims expert Kevin Quinley, who shared some gems on how to strengthen an expert witness report. Kevin has been retained on over 130 cases and authored over 600 published articles and ten books pertaining to claims, insurance, risk management and litigation management.
The following are five tips derived from our conversation with Kevin, which you can listen to on our podcast, Discussions at the Round Table.
Experts are often put in a position to meet extremely tight deadlines through no fault of their own. This is the nature of the work, and it should be expected. However, if deadlines cannot be met and negotiation is possible, it is important to seek some room to breathe.
“As an expert, many times [you face] those eleventh-hour, hair on fire, requests to review a couple thousand pages or more of documents, analyze them, [and] come to some conclusions. [You] draft, edit and proof your report, collaborate with counsel, and produce first-rate work product. So, [you] want as long a runway as possible … to allow yourself enough time so that you can do something other than microwave an opinion,” explains Kevin. “We are experts. We are not short-order cooks. The more time I have–and I think I speak for a lot of experts–the better job I can do for the lawyer, the law firm, and the client.”
Great experts want to outperform expectations and doing so requires time. Don’t lose an opportunity to obtain more time just because you didn’t request it.
The best way to start writing is to just start writing. Getting caught up in perfecting a first draft can be counterproductive. Making initial progress can build momentum and lead to that outstanding writing you expect from yourself.
Kevin says, “Many people feel they have to put something down that is extremely profound. [Just] get something on paper or the computer screen. Give yourself psychological permission to throw it against the wall, with the idea that some of it may come off, maybe scraped off, maybe cleaned off, but eliminate some of the psychological friction and resistance to starting.”
An expert report can seem like a daunting task with all the issues that need to be addressed. The best way to tackle any task is to approach it piece by piece; look at the work from an elevated level to form a strategy on how to best break it down. Kevin elaborates:
Break it like any big project that seems overwhelming. How am I ever going to climb that mountain? It is 26,000 feet. It is Everest. You do it one step at a time. You break it down. You do not look at the summit. You look at the steps in front of you. If you look at the six feet in front of your face and you keep going step by step and chipping away at it, you become clear on what your report has to address.
Maybe there are issues that you don’t need to address, or that fall under the purview of another expert. Seek comprehensibility from retaining council on these expectations, as well as the size and format of the final work product. “Get clarity on whether the written work product is a full-blown Rule 26 report or a bullet point kind of disclosure,” says Kevin.
Spell check is your friend, but not the only one. It’s important to put in the time to fully proofread your report and consider the appearance. When spending hours on a document like this, mistakes are bound to happen.
Kevin explains, “I am too close to the manuscript. That is when retaining council takes a look at it or somebody else takes a look at it. You develop blind spots. There are also software programs like Grammarly or Word Rake … that will spot grammatical and other errors. Let me get somebody who knows nothing about the case. I will tell you that I have my wife read through a report. She will catch grammar, spelling, and other things that I am blind to. Somebody who knows nothing about the case can say, ‘Does this make sense or not?’”
The visual appearance of the document is also crucial, as it should look excellent. “There is a book called Typography for Lawyers by Matthew Butterick,” recommends Kevin. “I am not a lawyer, but a report must be sound with no typos, proper grammar, and formatting. Appearance counts in making it good.”
There are many approaches lawyers take to working with their experts and understanding the attorney you are working with, and their expectations, is important every step of the way.
For instance, on sharing report drafts, Kevin notes, “Some of [the attorneys] say I do not want to see your drafts, maybe because of discoverability issues or whatever. Others say, yes, I would like to see a draft. So, before you send a draft to the retaining council, be clear on whether they want that or not.”
While this tip does not inherently strengthen an expert report, it improves the collaborative process which puts everyone in a better position to succeed.
For more than 25 years, Round Table Group has helped litigators locate, evaluate, and employ the best and most qualified expert witnesses. Round Table Group is a great complement to any litigator’s quest for an expert witness and our search is always free of charge. Contact us at 202-908-4500 for more information or start your expert search now.