Home > Discussions at the Round Table > At the Round Table with Sport Management Expert, Professor Gil Fried

At the Round Table with Sport Management Expert, Professor Gil Fried

December 22, 2023

In this episode…

Academic achievement may be a critical aspect of expert witness’ credentials, but our guest, Professor Gil Fried, believes that there is no substitute for continuing work in your field. While he teaches, he is an active member of multiple industry associations, and conference speaker. Maintaining an industry perspective works in concert with academia; this potent combination increases an expert witness’s opportunities, credibility, and value to clients.

Listen to the complete episode for our discussion over a story approach to juries, choosing cases that match your expertise, and setting expectations with attorneys.

Episode Transcript:

Note: Transcript has been lightly edited for clarity

Host: Noah Bolmer: Round Table Group

Guest: Gil Fried: Professor/Interim Assistant Dean, College of Business at the University of West Florida

Noah Bolmer: Welcome to Discussions at the Round Table. I’m your host Noah Bolmer and today I’m excited to welcome Professor Gil Fried to the show. Professor Fried is the interim Assistant Dean at the University of West Florida, where he teaches Sports Management and other courses. He is also the founder of Gil Fried and Associates, a full-service risk management firm operating in the sports and fitness industries for over 33 years now. He’s a published author and recognized expert in stadium safety, risk management, sports finance, and analytics. Professor Fried holds, a JD from Ohio State. University. Professor Fried, thank you so much for joining me here today at the Round Table.

Professor Gil Fried: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Noah Bolmer: Absolutely. Let’s jump into it. You’ve simultaneously had a decade spanning career in academia, specifically in Sports Management while running your own consulting firm. Tell me about your background and how you first became involved in expert witnessing.

Professor Gil Fried: Sure. I have the typical nontraditional background. I was actually a badminton player and played at the highest level in the US and played internationally as well. I was actually a bronze medalist for the United States in the Maccabiah Games. I started coaching [and] got into the coaching. I was the head coach at Stanford University and then I was recruited at Ohio State to coach their program. And while I was there, I was able to get my master’s degree in Sports Management and my law degree, so I put the two together and I was working in Sports Law in San Francisco representing stadiums and arenas. I wasn’t like Tom Cruise. I wasn’t Jerry Maguire. I never worked with any athletes or anything like that. My focus was always stadiums and arenas and how to make sure they’re as safe as possible, and so, back in 1993 I was asked by the State of Wisconsin to serve as an expert witness for all the Camp Randall cases. Now, Camp Randall is the stadium at the University of Wisconsin and at a football game in the early 90s between Wisconsin and Michigan, there was a stampede of players exiting the field and then fans coming down at the same time from the stands and twisted metal. I mean, it was just a disaster. 77 people were taken to the hospital and it resulted in 11 lawsuits against [the] State of Wisconsin. And I was used as [an] expert for all those cases that helped get the University of Wisconsin and the State of Wisconsin out of those cases. And so that’s how it started back in 1993. It’s been 30 years now of me doing this. And I’ve done close to 300 cases in a variety of different areas, some of it being stadium safety, some of it being concert venue, safety, arena safety, sport safety in general, wide variety of different areas.

Noah Bolmer: An expert witness with the J.D. is uniquely equipped to understand the job of expert witnessing from multiple perspectives. What makes a great expert witness from the perspective of an attorney? If you can put your attorney hat on for a moment.

Professor Gil Fried: It’s like the brain is operating during the deposition where I’m like, “Okay, this is where that question is coming from because they’re trying to establish that– they’re trying to establish X and trying to establish Y whatever it might be. As the attorney and I used to work. In the litigation field, so I understand the discovery process, I understand what’s going on. What I can do is help clients that retain me to understand what might be out there. What documents might be out there. What databases might be out there. What are in fact industry standards versus what might be a purported standard that is not founded upon any real science or anything else like that. On the defense side my goal is only how do we destroy the other sides expert. On the plaintiffs’ side my approach is how do I present it in such a simple and straightforward way that no one can really attack what I proposed? So I used-as an example, I was an expert witness in the Aurora theater shooting cases in Colorado, and that’s where a number of people got killed, and many people were injured. There were about 44, I think, plaintiff cases at the state level. There were also cases at the federal level, but I was a witness at the state court level, and I was on the plaintiff’s side. And my perspective was think of it like your home. What would you do in your home? What security measures do you have at your home and did the theater follow that? I made it so simple. And you, you have doors, you have windows, you use locks. Maybe you have a CCTV camera. Maybe you do XYZ and just work through the system and put it up on this whiteboard.  And on cross-examination- it lasted less than half an hour. [They] began asking one question about my theories or anything else like that, because I realized it was so simple and something that no one would really want to challenge that. All they were trying to say is, “Well, you’re not a movie theater expert.” And I was, “Yeah, I said that from the very beginning. I’m a special event expert.” And so this special event happened at a movie theater. And so that’s how I try to present it and that’s from having the legal background to be able to say this is what would resonate with a jury, more so than some of the outlandish kind of things that often get expert witnesses into trouble.

Noah Bolmer: What are the best ways—what are some strategies that attorneys can use to kind of inculcate their expert witnesses with this information to tell their experts, “Hey, this is what I need from you. This is what I expect from you, and this is what I don’t expect from you.” What is the best way to pass that on to experts?

Professor Gil Fried: I think it all depends upon the expert. How nimble they are. How well-versed they are on the topic. Some experts try to be a jack-of-all trades and a generalist in basically everything but not a specialist in anything. That can backfire. If you have someone that knows their stuff, sometimes the best way to approach [it] is to ask the expert to tell a story. Paint it like a story because of the education that’s out there in terms of how people perceive information as they receive it. If you give lots of numbers, lots of statistics, all this kind of stuff and you just do a brain dump on the jurors, they’re going to be backpedaling, and you’re not going to be able to have that connection. But if you could tell it in the form of a story and that’s what a lot of lawyers try to do. An expert witness can try to do the exact same thing. [The could] say, “Hey, look this is very similar to another case I handled where this, this, this– and all of a sudden, they can put it together.” And then if a lawyer follows up, “And so what was the result of that case that you just mentioned?” [You reply], “Oh well, we got a defense verdict on that” or “Oh, we got a $13 million verdict on that.” Whatever it might be. That, I think, solidifies it for the jurors that this guy is talking, or this gal is talking about something that really is legitimate and they backed it up with real facts, real people, real injuries, whatever it might be. And I think that resonates so much. If an attorney can encourage somebody as an expert to think broadly about how they’re going to present it, that’s going to be a huge value.

Noah Bolmer: It’s not just being an expert it’s also being relatable to the jury.

Professor Gil Fried: Correct. One thing that I try to do during a trial is look at the jurors. Am I making eye contact with them and I’m– if I’m getting that, yes, I’m going to key in on two or three jurors or I’m getting the head nods. And you know that they’re rapt to what I’m saying and then I’m just going to plug away at them because they’re going to be part of the biggest advocates because they seem to connect.

Noah Bolmer: During the vetting process, not only are attorneys deciding whether this is the best expert for their case, but the expert is deciding whether or not this engagement is appropriate for their expertise and for their experience. We’ve talked a bit about what the attorney is looking for, but what should the expert be looking for in an initial call to decide whether or not they should be taking an engagement in the first place?

Professor Gil Fried: I have a different perspective than a lot of others because I’m a full professor, so my reputation and academic field is the most important asset that I have. And as such, I will not take any cases where I think it’s just too borderline, too frivolous, whatever terms we might want to use. I do my own personal vetting, and I think that’s one thing that attorneys respect. I had a phone call last week and here I am mentioned telling stories, so I have a story. Last week I had a situation where an attorney called me about a possible case involving what we call buffer zones. Now [a] buffer zone is the distance between an end line of a sort and any kind of thing that might be a hazard, like a wall, equipment, things like that. And he mentioned he– there’s 10 feet of distance here and I said, “Look at the industry standard and what I’ve written is you need at least 5 1/2 feet, barring any other issues. I don’t think you have a case now.” Granted, the person said, “Thank you for being honest and trustworthy.” That’s it. “If I could be of any service, don’t hesitate to contact me, but I don’t think you need me now. If you find something significant later on, we can talk.” But it’s being upfront and honest like that that gives you the ability as an excellent witness to be able to control what you’re going to be working on but also. to gain respect in the industry because you’re not trying to just [say], “Hey, it’s a case. I’m going to take it on, and I want the money and that’s all that matters.” It’s– is there a value added that you can provide as an expert witness and if it’s a weak case, you probably can’t add value, so why take the case on?

Noah Bolmer: Do you have to turn down a significant number of cases?

Professor Gil Fried: It depends how you define significant. For me, I turn down regularly a good number of cases, but I’m lucky enough that I also have a strong book of business, so to speak, of attorneys that have used me in the past and they recommend me to others. I advertise anywhere. I do have a web page. I do work with organizations such as Round Table and stuff like that, that might refer me out to people, and they’re looking for an expert, but I don’t have any of my information in any directories or anything else. I find that when you do a good job, people take notice and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on the plaintiff’s side in a case against an NFL or Major League Baseball stadium or something like that and the second the case is over, I get a phone call from the opposing counsel saying, “We like how you work. We have two cases that are defending right now. Can we use you as your expert witness?” Looks like– I think that’s the ultimate compliment because I wasn’t outlandish. I wasn’t trying to raise any crazy theories or saying that is not defendable and I think attorneys respect that. I don’t get– like some experts might get 5 cases a month or whatever it might be that come in. I might get one or two a month at the most that come in, and then I’ll vet those, and it might be that one month I turned down 2 cases and don’t accept any. I don’t need to do the expert witness work. I’m lucky enough that I [have] a full-time job as a full professor and one of the things that they often try to trip you up on at deposition or trial is, “How much money do you make as an expert witness?” kind of thing. And I can clearly say I make more off royalties from the textbooks that I write than I make from expert witness testimony, and that’s one of the reasons why I don’t charge [more].” And so, we pretend the amount as an expert witness is that I want to keep it where it is. [It’s] difficult to attack me because this is not what I try [to] do as a way to make money. I do it to keep myself engaged in the industry where I can bring it back to the classroom and say, “Hey, look, this is a case I’m working on. What do you think about this? What would you do if you’re an athletic director and you’re faced with XYZ facts?” and that helps my students gain a better perspective of what actually happens in the industry. That’s the reason why I do it. I could turn down the cases and not feel bad at all about it.

Noah Bolmer: That’s an interesting point. What does it mean in your industry to be and to remain an expert. Does a lot of publications or certifications is that the sort of thing that helps you get engagements? Do you attend classes? What sorts of techniques do you use to enhance and maintain your expertise?

Professor Gil Fried: One of them is in the teaching side. You always have to be relevant with what you’re teaching, which means you have to stay abreast in the industry and know what’s going on. That means reading tons of publications, getting– I probably get every morning seven or eight different email blasts that are sent to me from different segments of the industry and it provides me the opportunity to stay abreast of what’s going on. [The] second thing is writing. When you write and when I write, it’s not just necessarily that I’m writing for my own edification. That I really want to see my name in print. I write a number of columns that are really focused on the industry. I have a free newsletter called Sports Facilities and the Law that comes out every– six times a year and I get to work with attorneys and we write different articles or they write it and we publish it and it’s a great way to look at ideas and research it, but make it relevant because we have about 1000 subscribers who work in the space. I also write a column called the Facility Doctors which is used in a publication called Venue Professionals by their National Association of Venue Managers that comes out several times a year as well and that is a publication for the industry for the venues themselves. When you’re writing for them, rather than writing for academia, and I don’t want to torpedo academia and all the peer review journals and everything else, but peer review journals have very little value. Sometimes because someone has a direction they want to go with the paper they’ll research to prove their point and not prove another point and then go with it from there versus I like to share stuff with [an] academia perspective with the industry and get the industry to come back and say, “Yes, you’re right.” or No, you’re wrong.” And so, once I get that, then I can really engage with the industry and that’s I think one of the most important points that I can raise is that an expert witness has to be part of an industry. If you’re an academician, it– that’s great, but that doesn’t necessarily make you an expert and makes you maybe someone well-read and who can write really well. I’ve seen some phenomenal faculty members who could dissect statistics like you wouldn’t believe, but if he asked them, had he actually run an event? They don’t know and so that’s why being engaged with the industry is so important. I’m a member of the Stadium Managers Association, the Florida Venue Managers Association, [and] the Sport Recreation Law Association. I mean, I could keep going on and on of all these different groups that I’m a member of and a lot of that is because I want to be there and go to their conferences and talk to the people so when I’m on the witness stand and someone says, “Well, how do you know that’s being done?” I say “Well, look at– I just read an article with the head of this stadium, and I talked with this person, and this person at these conferences and this is what they’re saying is going on in the league right now”. It’s no longer from an academic perspective. I’m bringing it in from an industry perspective. Being able to combine academia into an industry is so critical and that’s what oftentimes I see lacking with expert witnesses that they just don’t have the ability to connect both sides. And if you do it well, it’s easy because what I do in the industry translates to what I bring in the classroom and what I write about, and it becomes a circle of all these three elements, teaching, research, and industry all working together and that just helps me as an expert.

Noah Bolmer: With so many publications behind you, is it difficult to remember everything that you’ve ever said and done? Do you worry about being impeached on the stand? “Hey, didn’t you say XYZ 30 years ago in the school newsletter at East Cupcake High School?”  Is this something that you have to [do] constantly, stay on top of, or do you have some techniques to deal with those sort of questions from the opposing counsel?

Professor Gil Fried: The opposing counsel does that if it’s at a deposition, I’ll joke with him at first saying, “Oh, did you buy the book or did you check it out from the library?” It’s just because I said, “If you checked it out from the library, why are you being so cheap? Why couldn’t you have bought It for this case?” and it breaks the Ice. It shows that I’m just a normal everyday Joe [and] that I’m not a snotty academician that’s so full of themselves kind of thing. But when I’m asked about that I’ll say, “Well. that reference that you’re giving, is that something that I wrote?” If they say, “Yes.” I’ll say, “Do you remember what the copyright date of that publication is?” If they said, “Oh, it’s 1998.” Then I’ll come back and say, “Well, as you can perceive that was a number of years ago, [and] I, as someone who’s written 13 textbooks, [and] hundreds of articles, I don’t remember everything I wrote, but I’m consistent with what I wrote. If that is what it says, I would not disagree with it.” If there is ever, and I haven’t seen it yet, a place where they could say, “Well, didn’t you say this and now you’re saying something else?” I can come back and say, “Part of that is just as you mature in the industry, you get more information, more knowledge, and more perspective.” And I can say, “I was wrong about that.” at that point. I haven’t had to face that yet, but that’s how I would approach that if I were to be asked about that. And sometimes it just needs clarification and I’ve had people try to say, “Well, didn’t you see this?” and they’re attacking me and then I’ll say, “Well, can you show me the source?” and they’ll say, “Oh, it’s in this book and here’s the line.” and if this was being zoomed, I’ll say, “Can you scroll up to the top and can you go to the front of the chapter? What’s the title of that chapter?” Then they’ll read the title and I’ll say, “Look you’re taking something from here and applying it to this case when it was written for something completely. Different.” I did that at a deposition a couple of years ago and it just blew the opposing counsel out of the water because he was trying to imply that I was saying something about something when it was about a completely different topic, and it just made him look foolish.

Noah Bolmer: Yeah, I’ve heard that. That’s a fairly common tactic when impeaching is to try and take certain things out of context. Making sure that everything’s in context is certainly important. I want to return to something you mentioned a bit earlier about working for both the plaintiff and defendant side engagements have a couple of many possible permutations, right? If you’re plaintiff, you can work for the defendant. You can be a consulting expert or a testifying expert. There are initial reports and there are rebuttal reports. Let’s compare some of those possibilities. You’ve worked for both plaintiff and defendant. Are there major differences between those types of engagements?

Professor Gil Fried: For me not that significant and the reason why I say that is I approach the cases just the same. I think on the defense side, I might have a little more latitude that I’m given to try to destroy the other side’s expert. I might write in a defense report I’m not sure if you remember Saturday Night Live from years ago with Dan Ackroyd and Jane. He would just call her all these different names and use that as the basis and I’m not saying that I went to that extreme, but I would say this person’s not an expert, they’re an advocate, and things like that. Stuff that I could be a little bit more aggressive [with] on the defense side and I’ve had attorneys say, “Gil, tone it down. I know what you’re trying to do. Let me do that on the cross-examination and others have said, “Oh, that’s perfect because we don’t want to take this case to trial. We think it’s going to settle, but what you have just done and demolished that expert witness was great.” I had one case where I was defending a Walmart in a Black Friday crowd rush death case at one of their stores and it was Department of Justice going up against the Walmart and I got the other sides expert witness, the Department of Justice expert witness thrown out on the Dalbert Challenge and the attorneys for Walmart said, “Gil did their job. We don’t need to you to testify, and the Department of Justice rushed to the judge [and] said, “Can we have him testify for us? He had some legitimate points about what is going on in crowd management.” and the Walmart attorneys said, “They were great and no, you can’t.” A nice try kind of thing, but if you do it in such a way that you can [use] on the defense side to destroy the other sides expert that has value and I don’t have that option as a [the] plaintiff’s expert because I normally don’t know what the other side’s expert is going to say. Sometimes you do, other times you don’t. I try to be preemptive. I think that is seen in a report that I might write where I might say– look at the other side, might say ‘X’ and here I’m going to rebut it and so even though I might not know exactly what they’re going to do, if I can knock down some of their claims on the plaintiff’s side from the very beginning that might have value for moving the case forward and or at least raising some tribal issues to overcome summary judgment because oftentimes on the plaintiffs side, if that’s– their primary goal is they think if they can get beyond summary judgment that maybe the case is In better shape to settle.

Noah Bolmer: Let’s talk about changing expectations for an expert witness. You might be brought on as a consulting witness where you’re not expecting to take the stand, but I’ve heard from some of my interviewees that occasionally that job shifts. Is it important that expert witnesses, even those that are engaged as consulting witnesses, are prepared for depositions?

Professor Gil Fried: I can’t talk much about that because every time I’ve been retained, it’s been under the assumption I’m going to be testifying at trial and that is my perspective that I’m not going in as just a consultant. I’ll consult with you throughout the entire process, but I’m running this like I’m going to be testifying, and in some of the cases, like one of the famous cases I was involved with is the Stowe case [where] a San Francisco Giant fan who was attacked at Dodger Stadium and got a $13 million verdict against the old ownership group of the Dodgers. In that case, I think they started with 7 or 8 experts on the plaintiffs’ side, but when it came time for trial, I was the only expert that testified, and I think part of that is just how I conduct myself is that I’m preparing for a trial at every stage of what’s going on. How would this appear if it went to trial? How would my deposition appear if I’m faced with it? When I’ve been given the ability to modify a deposition? I think I’ve made two or three changes in all my years, and that was all because of typos in terms of spelling of names and that’s it. I’ve never had to change my testimony because my testimony from my perspective is going to be, “Look at this. It’s what’s going to be at trial.”  I’m talking at trial and while technology has changed and now [that] I’m doing a lot more Zoom depositions and Zoom trials; I treat it the exact same way.

Noah Bolmer: Let’s talk about your report writing process. One of the first things that you have to do after you are brought on. Sometimes you’re given a ridiculous amount of paperwork to go through. Where do you get started? Do you read every last word that is handed to you by your attorney? How do you organize your reports? Walk me through your process.

Professor Gil Fried: I’d love to say that I have this formalistic process [and] that I do step A, step B, and then step C. I don’t and part of that just depends upon the scope of the material. For example, I’m working right now on a huge case. The Astro World cases, the deaths in Houston, and the amount of discovery, I’ve never seen in my career so many 405-page deposition kind of thing. To organize that is going to be a feat in and of itself, right? And so, as I’m writing a report, I’m pulling out the tidbits. What I like to do, and this is a good hint for attorneys out there, is if there are a lot of depositions well, Dropboxes are great. If it’s the minis, you’re just scrolling back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. It takes me much longer. I’d rather have– and I tell people if there’s a lot of those, send them to me in hard copy because I can go through that a lot faster than scrolling back and forth with Minis on a small screen. Even though it’s a large screen still, the type is small and what I often do is if I have printed copies, I dog-ear or underline things instead of writing notes that could be discoverable. I just dog-ear a page or underline the material and then when I review it to write the report that’s when I pull that out. That’s oftentimes how I do it. And if there is something that comes up like, “Wow, this is the aha moment or the smoking gun or something else like that.” Then I might go and say, “Hey, look at even those discoveries going, I’m going to light this gem of a piece for the reports. All I have in there is the name and that one piece of information until I move it forward, but once I move forward, I just sit down an entire file, go through it and then pull out what I think is important because what my perspective is at the start of a case versus at the end when I’m writing a report or testifying can change dramatically because I might find certain things and I often tell a lawyer, “Hey, l was going through and this is what I saw. This is where I think I want to go with this report.” and I can’t tell you how many times a third-party perspective was read through the material comes back and shares something when an attorney would just be like, “Wow, I didn’t even think about that. I’ve been so engrossed in this case I was just thinking about this claim and you just raised a whole new claim here that I never thought of.” and I’ve had that raised a number of times by attorneys and they say, “Wow, I would have never thought to add that part or do this or to do that. Wow. Thank you.”  I feel that’s part of doing the job and part of the process is that it’s an evolutionary process. If you come in saying I’m going to find the person guilty. I’m going to find them responsible or whatever, it’s not going to work. You let the facts dictate where it’s going to go, and as you go [through] that process, I think it’s going to reaffirm what you might have had as the initial ideas and sometimes can contradict. I’ve gone to attorneys and told them, “Look, [this] is what you said, this is what the facts say. I’m not comfortable– I’m no longer comfortable going forward with the case because I don’t think you have a case here.” And I think they’re appreciative of that because they’ll save money instead of running after a case where there’s [a] very low likelihood of winning to something else, and I’ve had that with a couple of cases, especially some of the fight cases at stadiums where I’ve been able to look at there was no knowledge of pre-existing issues. The person was at their assigned post. They were doing what they were supposed to do. They had their roving teams. They did this and that and the record speaks for itself, “I don’t think you have a case.” and they dropped the lawsuit because they realized that it’s going to be a dog. Let’s get out quickly rather than investing more time and energy.

Noah Bolmer: Right. Speaking of time and energy, do you feel that you’re typically brought on early enough in the process to be able to help in those ways to find the new things and for the case to change, or do you find yourself having to write your report on fire because it’s due in 48 hours?

Professor Gil Fried: I would say it’s probably about 50/50. Looking at 30-plus years of doing this I think it’s about 50/50. There are a number that bring me on before they file a lawsuit. I have helped resolve cases before, they had to go to litigation by helping to produce a report. I did one in a potential case. In Massachusetts, involving the basketball court there and they said, “Hey, look we brought this expert in, and here’s his report. Do you want us to go through the motions here, and it will cost you a lot of money or do you want to settle for policy limits? After they read the report they said, “Yeah, policy limits. Let’s just be done with it.” because they– it was one of these no-brainer kinds of cases. Other times, especially with an agency that has bought in, it’s often an attorney who has waited. They thought they could find somebody [and] they haven’t found the right person. Then they go to Round Table or another group, whichever one they go to, and they’ll say, “Look, we need an expert.” and I’ll get those phone calls where it’s “Look this attorney is desperate. They have a week before our rebuttal is due or they have to file this or [they] have to follow that. Are you willing to talk to them?” I’m willing to talk to them. Definitely. That’s not a problem at all whether or not I could help. [If] they tell me, “Hey, we’re going to have 40 depositions for you to read in a week.” I’ll be saying, “Thank you, but no, thank you.” because it’s just an impossible task. Attorneys just have to think about it from that perspective and don’t set your expert up for failure because I’ve never and will never (–) Your report is based upon what an attorney. He says, “I have to have it based upon the record and I’m not going [to] skimp and skim through depositions because that’s where you make mistakes. You make mistakes when you [are] doing things fast and not accurately. I want to read the entire deposition because I might find something there that the attorney might have thought was a small little item, but I could take a look at that and go like you know what?” That for me is the smoking gun because that shows that they didn’t understand the process, or the industry standard, or whatever it might be, or they didn’t follow a policy procedure. That’s why I have to be able to do that and so if you push me, I’m going to back away because I’m not going to be able to do my job effectively.

Noah Bolmer: Before we wrap up, I want to ask you about fostering and maintaining that positive relationship between the expert and attorney. I mean, you’re a sports guy. Tell me about teamwork between, to use a cliche between the attorney and the expert.

Professor Gil Fried: When an attorney gives me freedom to be able to come up with a report and spin a narrative and the narrative is based upon the facts that have come out in the case and then to look at that and go like, “OK, I see a little bit here or there.” I’ve had probably 150 plus reports that I’ve– and I don’t know what the number is, but it’s up there. I think I’ve had maybe 30 or 40 where an attorney has said, “This is perfect. I won’t change anything. Let’s go with it as it is.” That’s great but I’ll be the first one to say I suck at spelling even though I’ve written all these texts– I mean, I suck at spelling, and I know that I’m going to need to re- edit it and when I send a draft over I’ve read it maybe once or twice, but I know I’m going to find a little here or there kind of thing just a typo. One or two of them. I’m wondering if they’ve really read it as closely or it’s “I just needed to get this out and you got it to me. So thank you.” The ones that are more challenging are when an attorney says, “I want you to write a report. What you think is going to be a great report.” and then it comes back with basically red lined for every single word. “I didn’t like this word.” If you are going to be that way as an attorney, tell me ahead of time so I can prepare myself and I can save you money instead of me spending all this time writing what I think is going to be a strong report and if you want to go in a complete different direction, let me know from the very beginning. That’s just something that fosters the opposite of team and I’ve had a number of times where attorneys have said. “Let’s discuss it. What do you think about it?” I think a great teamwork kind of relationship is when an attorney says “Look, before you start the report, let’s talk about it and just discuss it. What are your thoughts? What are your perspectives? What information– is there any information that you’re tracking?” I mean, I’ve had cases where an attorney hasn’t given me all the depositions in a case. Now, sometimes that’s relevant because it might be medical or something else, which I’m not going to be taking a look at anyway, but sometimes it might be factual and if you don’t share that with me, I could be torpedoed on the stand. Did you think that was relevant? It’s going to be tough for me to say it. “Yeah, it’s probably relevant, but it wasn’t shared with me.” That’s not going [to] look good. I like to have that conversation just, “Is there anything else that might be out there that could be a benefit?” That’s how you have a good relationship. When you can have that kind of dialogue, that communication, that’ll benefit both parties.

Noah Bolmer: Absolutely. Do you have any last advice to newer experts in particular or attorneys who are working with experts?

Professor Gil Fried: For people that are just starting to go into the expert field, I see it on a regular basis. The first one is often the most difficult one to get and to be able to get that you have to be an expert in a defined area. You have to have made your name out there. In my situation I was writing about venue safety and representing venues and that’s how I got the gig which was my one of my first gigs as an expert, was from those publications. Get out there. Get known in [a] discipline where it’s very unique. If you’re looking for an example, let’s just say football cases. Well, what are the types of cases out there? What can you add that someone can’t get from a generalist kind of thing? Well, maybe [you] have an expertise in the synthetic fibers that are used in terms of artificial turf and all of a sudden, you become that go to person in that area that will help you grow rather than say, “I’m in my context and support law area. I’m a sport expert.” What does that mean? There are so many different areas. If you are an expert because you’ve been a PE teacher, well then work on that, become the expert in terms of how to understand curriculum, and how to understand the social development of kids in athletics and stuff like that, and that can help you with [an] understanding of the progression of skills and those kind of things on the attorney side that an expert witness, like you, would a doctor get a second opinion. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told people “I’m not the expert cure.” Someone that I think is worthwhile for you to go to as a potential expert if you are desperate, you might get stuck with a lemon. Like the lemon law for bad cars, you can have that for an expert witness. and I’ve seen that regret on attorneys, especially their faces saying I’ve spent ‘X’ amount of dollars. I have a current case and I saw what the opposing expert charged and the number of hours that they had and I’m doing this on the defense side. I saw the bill that was produced, and I said, “I hate to tell you this” to the attorney. I’ve spent less than one-fourth of the time that she spent on this case and the opposing expert, and I got the same result for you, kind of thing. I don’t think the attorney that hired her is going to be really happy and so if it’s someone who’s. an advocate or doing this in a full-time gig. Think twice [about] what are they doing it for? Is it because it puts food on the table? Then is there an incentive for them to run up the bills and can they be attacked on the stand? And that’s what has happened a number of times. I’ve worked with attorneys and said, “Yeah, that guy or that gal, whatever it is, they have [a] great perspective, but they only do cases on one side. Right? They’re an advocate because they don’t want to lose the possibility of consulting work, and so as such, this is how you destroy them.” And each time it has worked. An attorney, when they’re vetting an expert, they need to do their due diligence and ask will this person stand up under scrutiny? And maybe ask what have been the last couple bills that you’ve [been] given for cases. Just get a feel for how expensive someone might actually be because they might say, “Oh well, [it] takes me 10 hours.” and when you get a bill for 40 hours you start wondering “Was I ripped off here?” and “Was my client ripped off?”

Noah Bolmer: Right, right. Absolutely great advice. Thank you so much, Professor Fried for joining me here.

Professor Gil Fried: Oh, it was my pleasure and everyone out there, stay safe.

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After a quarter century helping litigators find the right expert witnesses, Round Table Group’s network contains some of the world’s greatest experts. On the Discussions at the Round Table podcast, we talk to some of them about what’s new in their field of study and their experience as expert witnesses.

At the Round Table with Sport Management Expert, Professor Gil Fried

Professor Gil Fried, Founder, Gil Fried and Associates

Professor Gil Fried is the Interim Assistant Dean at the University of West Florida, where he teaches Sport Management. He is the founder of Gil Fried and Associates., a full-service risk management firm operating in the sport and fitness industries. He is a published author, and a recognized expert in stadium safety, risk management, sport finance and analytics. Professor Fried holds a JD from Ohio State.