Litigation processes have been altered over the last year and a half, as COVID-19 has changed the way in which legal teams prepare for and execute successful cases. A major piece of this transformation is the collaboration and interaction with expert witnesses.
A number of cases have persistently pushed forward by using technology to help facilitate virtual meetings, mediation, and even testimony. While the role of an expert witness remains unchanged, the shift toward virtual operations requires a nuanced approach to preparation, as many experts, attorneys, and judges are still new to this change in litigation procedures and techniques.
To help legal teams and their experts successfully navigate these changes, we’d like to explore some tips for collaboration and execution during these changing times.
Many cases require a fair amount of back and forth between the expert and the legal team throughout the litigation process. To help facilitate productive and effective collaboration, make sure to utilize the latest technology available. Each firm has its own preferred and approved tools, whether that be Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Hangouts or others. There are many options available, so no matter what your firm uses, there are a myriad of resources to help educate your experts on the specific tools and ensure that they integrate seamlessly into existing processes.
Using new technology throughout this process actually makes many things easier, including the sharing of information via screen shares or the ease of communication through tools like Slack. The efficiency that results from the lack of in person meetings, or the ease of health and safety concerns associated with sharing the same physical space during a pandemic can also be considered benefits. If this technology is becoming a requirement, learn how to make the most of it.
On the other hand, many people struggle with new technology, so always consider the cons and how your specific teammates might benefit from education along the way. Sometimes working from home can present new distractions or fatigue from staring at a screen all day. If you are aware of these challenges early on, you can operate in a way that mitigates their impact while working with your expert witness.
In some instances, expert witnesses or other team members might need some time to assimilate to this new virtual environment by walking through the process and practicing the required steps. This is especially important when you consider the potential for tech issues. Always test your connectivity and line up support for those critical moments, should troubleshooting be required. Prepare for the worst-case scenario so that you are ready to tackle it head on if needed.
It is easy to forget about your setting when you have no choice but to stream from your home or office. Make sure that you remind your experts to choose a clean, professional, and minimal environment when presenting virtually. It is always best to eliminate distractions by setting up near an empty wall or in a clean and organized office space.
Just as important as a professional environment is professional presentation. Just because you are not physically in the courtroom does not mean that you can skip dressing the part. The goal is to transcend the limitations of the virtual environment by remaining professional and avoiding any differences from what has worked for you and your experts in the past. Dress for your role and remain professional.
It is easy to become distracted when you are working from home and video conferencing is the only gateway to your team or the courtroom. Your expert’s behavior should remain as it would in the courtroom or meeting room. Do not eat, make noises, look at your phone, or distract others with your actions. Remain considerate of everyone involved despite the difference in locations.
This goes beyond physical behavior and includes your expert’s speaking. If someone else is speaking, do not interrupt them. Virtual environments are prone to hearing difficulties, so do your part in reducing these issues by listening and avoiding talking over others. In order to improve everyone’s experience, teach your experts how to use the mute button, particularly if there are background noises outside of your control (the neighbor’s dog, tree trimming, etc.)
New processes always come with a learning curve. For some expert witnesses this might be more challenging than others, so always remain patient and flexible to accommodate changes. You are bound to run into tech issues or poor connections, so be empathetic and do your best to calmly navigate issues as they arise.
While the sudden need to push implementation of these technologies was unanticipated, we are all now learning to handle them. If you follow these tips and prepare your expert witnesses for the hurdles they might come up against, you will improve your team’s ability to navigate and adapt in real time should the need arise.
For those that are unfamiliar with Round Table Group, for more than 25 years, we have helped litigators to 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 202-804-8121 for more information or start your expert search now.
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