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What’s Important in an Expert Witness Curriculum Vitae? 

March 27, 2024
Curriculum Vitae document

The first thing an attorney will look at when evaluating an expert witness is their curriculum vitae (CV). They’re looking to see if your experience matches well with their need for their matter and if it will “help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue” (1). If the opposing expert has already been identified, they may compare your experience to theirs and see if they believe the jury will find you at least as credible based on your credentials. They may also be looking to see if your previous publications, posts, etc., are consistent with what you’ve presented and their theory of the case. Therefore, your CV is important.

At Round Table Group, we’ve been reviewing expert CVs and resumes for over 30 years and have heard a wide range of attorney reactions to them. Here are a few tips we’ve learned. 

What are the Important Components? 

Many industry experts only have a resume: the typical one- or two-page summary of professional qualifications.  CVs, which can run to dozens of pages with publications, presentations, accreditations, etc., listed exhaustively are most common for academic, research and medical experts.  Most attorneys and courts will use the term CV to refer to both. 

As when applying for any job, keep in mind the most important aspects of the CV: 

  1. It should be factually correct 
  2. It should include all of the relevant information 
  3. It should be up-to-date 

Some courts may have specific requirements (see below on federal Rule 26, for example) but your CV must meet these minimum requirements. 

The Presentation of Your CV 

Does the formatting of your CV matter a lot?  Not typically at this stage. Attorneys tend to be quite forgiving about the formatting of the CV, especially prior to filing with the court. Some industry experts who have never worked as an expert witness haven’t had to create a resume in decades and may cobble something together quickly. Some experts export their LinkedIn profiles. Other expert employees of large consulting groups with very long CVs send a one-page biography as the initial CV. Attorneys prefer something more detailed than the bio to sink their teeth into, but it is at least a starting point.  Once again, as long as your CV is legible, follows an easily understandable progression, and provides enough information for an attorney to understand your background and how it might relate to their case, it will probably suffice.  The National Institute of Justice suggests the following outline: 

  • Current position or title. 
  • Professional education and training. 
  • Government and public service. 
  • Employment history. 
  • Details of continuing education and training. 
  • Areas of professional or technical concentration and professional highlights. 
  • Honors, ratings, recognitions and licenses. 
  • Professional memberships and affiliations. 
  • Teaching, lecturing, seminar, workshop or conference presentations. 
  • Publications, including books, articles, chapters, and seminar or workshop papers. 
  • Expert witness experience. 

The order of these sections is not particularly important, and these sections may or may not be relevant to you, but this outline highlights the sorts of biographical information that an attorney might find interesting. 

While formatting and what to include/exclude is flexible, don’t adapt it too much to try and suggest you are the correct expert for any given assignment. Opposing attorneys may use that to suggest you are hiding aspects of yourself that are not conducive to a given opportunity or that you are puffing up your credentials for this one. Either way, it may impact your perceived credibility. 

Finally, as with any formal document, make sure your CV has no misspellings or grammatical errors. You do not want to end up on the stand with the opposing attorney suggesting that you are prone to errors based on your CV… and thus suggest that your opinion is not credible. 

What to Include in Your CV 

Generally, the more experience, the longer the CV. It may be acceptable to optionally abbreviate your lists in some places. Some examples include pre-collegiate employment (unless it adds to your substantive expertise in a field), or long-past lectures, seminars, and workshops. If your CV makes it clear what you are doing, it’s likely ok to draw your own consistent line around what to include. 

The exceptions to this are your publication history and expert witness experience, at least in federal court. Rule 26 requires: 

  • “the qualifications of the witness, including a list of all publications authored by the witness within the preceding ten years” 
  • “a listing of any other cases in which the witness has testified as an expert at trial or by deposition within the preceding four years” 

While you could provide the attorney with these lists outside of your CV, best practice is to include the information in the CV you provide to the attorney. 

In general, if you are retained, check with the attorney for the particular requirements of the court wherein the case is filed for specific CV requirements prior to providing your CV for the court. 

What to Exclude 

CVs are intended to be a summary of your academic and professional life. Exclude extraneous (particularly personal) information which might make the CV seem less professional. 

Consider how this information might be used.  It is very appropriate for a CV to include any academic or professional organizations in which you’ve participated, but you might not want to include memberships in organizations that anyone can join with just a payment. Opposing attorneys sometimes use items like this as an opportunity to imply that you are “puffing up” your credentials. 

Once filed in court, CV’s become public documents. Therefore, CVs may also be passed around or posted online. In these days of phishing scams, you should not include information which might pose a security risk to you or your family or allow a bad actor to impersonate you more effectively such as: 

  1. Your social security number or any other government identification number 
  2. Your marital status and information about your spouse 
  3. The names and ages of your children 
  4. Information on our religion 
  5. Information on your health  

When we see those pieces of information on CVs sent to us, we reach out to the experts and ask them if we may remove it prior to presenting it to our clients. 

As you see, there is a fair amount of versatility allowed for expert CVs. Be truthful, be thorough and be current; everything else is flexible. 

If you are interested in being considered for expert witness gigs, sign up with Round Table Group. For 30 years, we have helped litigators locate, evaluate, and employ the best and most qualified expert witnesses. Contact us at 202-908-4500 for more information or sign up now! 

1. 28 USC App Fed R Evid Rule 702: Testimony by Experts

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