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8 Tips to Improve Expert Selection

July 15, 2020

Expert selection has the potential to make or break a case, requiring legal teams to be thorough at every stage in the process. As the pioneering expert witness search firm, Round Table Group has over 25 years of experience guiding attorneys through the expert selection process and ensuring that the experts retained are a perfect match for the issues in question. This is why we want to take some time to detail what we consider to be the top 8 tips to improve expert witness selection:

Academic vs. Professional Practitioner

Before delving into your expert search, prioritize credentials and determine what background and experience your ideal candidate will possess. Most commonly, expert witnesses fall into one of two categories:

Academic – These experts hail from universities and research facilities, as they develop their knowledge and expertise through in-depth study and methodical analysis or assessment of their focus area. These experts are often most useful for expounding on theoretical and/or scientific information. As they usually have teaching experience, they are often very good at explaining complex topics to laymen.

Professional Practitioner – These experts acquire their knowledge through active participation within an industry, in roles such as engineer, surgeon, or CPA. Some cases require an expert with “boots on the ground” knowledge of industry practices & standards. Practitioners have that knowledge in spades.

No two cases are the same, as variables tend to arise that make one of these types of expert witnesses more desirable and likely to succeed than the other. Therefore, it is important to consider which option will best serve your client before digging too deeply into the search process.

The experience that expert search firms have when it comes to pairing experts with legal teams makes their input on this topic very valuable. Firms like Round Table Group can help attorneys decide whether an academic or professional practitioner would be more appropriate for any given case.

Consider Budgeting

Budgeting for the retention of an expert witness needs to be a part of your legal team’s conversations early in the process. Cutting corners when it comes to allocating resources for an expert witness is rarely a good idea. Fortunately, many expert witnesses have a strong understanding of how to be cost-conscious and ensure that quality is never compromised, and expert witness search firms like Round Table Group can help set experts’ expectations from the outset. Everyone involved can have a meeting of the minds in order to develop creative solutions that reduce cost without weakening the expert’s analysis.

It is helpful to discuss budgeting in terms of hours while having these conversations, to better understand the scope of the engagement. This helps align the legal team and the expert and sets a baseline of understanding for budgeting conversations in the future should the scope of the work change.

Assess & Evaluate Expert’s Credentials

There are many expert candidates that appear to possess similar credentials and experience. A more thorough examination is key to uncovering credentials or other differentiators in an expert’s background that set them apart from other candidates.

Round Table Group’s Expert Services Managers are an excellent resource when evaluating an expert’s credentials and determining whether they are a good match for your case. These professionals have deep experience pairing experts with legal teams, which makes them a trustworthy and reliable partner adding value in this area.

Conduct a Thorough Interview

The interview process is the perfect opportunity to gain an understanding of an expert’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as verify their credibility. At Round Table Group, we advise that the lead-attorney manage this essential process in person, on a video call, or on the phone. The value of a thorough interview cannot be overstated, as it opens the door to a more detailed and personalized understanding of an expert’s background, credentials, testifying experience, communication skills, and more. Interviews often include associates, partners, and in-house counsel. This conversation lays the groundwork for the collaboration moving forward, and the expert should gain a realistic understanding of the work required on the case.

The interview also offers an opportunity for the legal team to verify their assessment of the expert’s credentials and background in order to ensure that their resume contained no errors or omissions that might come back to haunt them during cross-examination. The attorney should also use this time to disclose party information and confirm that no conflicts of interest exist.

Legal teams should begin to provide the expert with basic case facts, and information regarding areas of the case in which the expert would be involved, as well as information on key case dates including expert disclosure, report deadlines, depositions, and trial commencement. The expert should understand what is needed from them, such as consulting, testifying, written and oral reports, invalidity and infringement analysis, etc.

Additionally, your dialogue with the expert will inform your perception of their personality and communication skills which will be critical in the courtroom. What is your first impression of this expert? Do they offer concise and understandable answers to your questions, or are they overly talkative and difficult to decipher? Does this expert come off as warm and inherently likable, or cold and uncaring? Strong experts can communicate an idea and educate a jury without the use of jargon. Beyond this, the personality traits that your expert conveys through their verbal and nonverbal communication has the potential to appeal to the jury or irritate them.

By the end of the interview you can take some time to request references, relevant publications, deposition transcripts and schedule a follow up call or meeting. Round Table Group’s Expert Services Managers can facilitate each of these tasks.

Our Expert Services Managers spend a tremendous amount of time considering how to improve the expert selection process. These four tips are only the beginning, and in part two we will delve into reviewing publications, reports, and testifying experience, as well as considering claims of bias.

If you’d like to discuss the expert selection process that we’ve honed over the last 25 years, and how we can find the right expert witness for your matter, please call us at (202) 908-4500.

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