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Expert Witnessing
3

Expert Witnessing

Expert Witnessing

(OP)
I've been an expert consultant on a couple of recent lawsuits that didn't go to trial and found that I kind of liked the work.  These cases were both focused very narrowly on areas that I've published in and my web site had enough information for the attorney's to find me.

What I'm wondering is has anyone used any of the expert directories and are they worth several hundred dollars a year to be listed?

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering
www.muleshoe-eng.com
Please see FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips Fora.

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts"  Patrick Moynihan

RE: Expert Witnessing

David,
Unless you are looking for a national or international audience, I wouldn't bother.  I'm in that business and almost all of our business comes from referrals.  

A couple of years ago we did one of the lawyer conferences where consultants/experts can put up a booth and show your stuff.  Cost us a couple of thousand dollars plus two days of lost time....got almost nothing from it except that now we're on the mailing list of all the other consultants!

A few times of testifying and you'll get more work.  

Good luck,
Ron

RE: Expert Witnessing

David:

I've also been involved in expert testimony on numerous occasions over the past 10 years.  My experience is that the best way to get clients is by referrals and direct contacts with law firms that specialize in the appropriate areas of law (for instance - construction litigation).  That being said, I typically keep the expert testimony portion of my business to less than 50% of my total work load.  I do not want to be seen as a professional "expert", but rather a practicing professional that also performs testimony.  Believe me, I have been asked that question many times by lawyers trying to show that I am merely a hired gun to help my client's case.  Also, I find that keeping my responses and opinions based purely on factual data and not shading my findings to help my client actually makes my tesimony more defensible and ultimately helps my clients to a greater degree.

RE: Expert Witnessing

(OP)
My business is about 2% Expert stuff, I'd like to get it up to the 15% range, but higher than that starts making me nervous.

All of the jobs I've gotten have been from lawyers who started out in the Expert directories and came up empty so they started searching for related web sites and found me that way (one found me on eng-tips.com and followed the link in my sig to my web site).  I was just wondering if there was any value to spending $300-$1000 to get listed in the directories.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering
www.muleshoe-eng.com
Please see FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips Fora.

Remember, being ignorant isn't your fault; staying ignorant is.  

RE: Expert Witnessing

I have done this about 6 or 7 times.  NOT WORTH IT!!

RE: Expert Witnessing

(OP)
Done what?  Testified or joined the directories?  The Expert stuff seems to definately be a niche kind of thing, I enjoy it but then I like to argue (discuss? debate?) and have a pretty high opinion of my own abilities.  I can see where being badgered by an attorney would not appeal to everyone.

David

RE: Expert Witnessing

WHEngineer,

"That being said, I typically keep the expert testimony portion of my business to less than 50% of my total work load.  I do not want to be seen as a professional "expert."

50%??????  Too late!

RE: Expert Witnessing

One issue you'll have to deal with when (not if) it comes up, is whether you want to do plaintiff or defense work, or both.

When I first started, I was called in for mostly defense work.  I kept getting these questions from attorneys about only doing defense work.  My answer was and still is...if I get called by the plaintiff and my opinion fits with the plaintiffs direction, then the plaintiff will hire me...if my opinion doesn't fit their direction, they won't....same applies to either side...my point being that my opinion is the same without regard to plaintiff or defense posture....it has to be.  No single job is worth compromising my reputation.

Can you help your client even when your opinion is adverse to their interests?  Yes.  You then become their best "devil's advocate" and allow them an opportunity to re-evaluate their posture. While it isn't always easy to do so, I've had to recommend to my client that they try to reach a settlement and not push the issues as they would probably lose.  Sometimes they don't believe you and you part ways...they'll find someone else.  Most times they believe you because you come to them recommended by someone and if you maintain a professional approach to your investigation and remain objective, they will respect your opinion, whether it comports with their interests or not.

My work is now probably on the order of 60 percent plaintiff and 40 percent defense.  Litigation support is currently about 50 to 60 percent of my practice, but it varies from about 30 to about 70 percent at times.

Before you get too hung up on how much of your work is litigation support, you might consider that the work is engineering work, not just being a witness.  These projects, just as with any engineering projects, need competent, experienced engineering evaluation and expertise.  The "expert witness" part of it is no different than if you're called by a commercial client to solve a problem. You evaluate, you give your opinion as to cause and remedy, and you present it to your client.  The only difference with litigation is the atmosphere under which you do this.

RE: Expert Witnessing

Ron is quite correct in his advice.  An expert's primary responsibility, when a case actually gets to trial (or deposition stage), is to advise the court to the best of his ability without prejudice.  If conducting an investigation before trial, he performs an engineering service to the best of his ability for his client.  

RE: Expert Witnessing

(OP)
Yeah, I got it.  I'm doing this kind of work now.  My question is not how to keep my soul while doing litigation support, but is it worthwhile to sign up with the Expert directories.

David

RE: Expert Witnessing

David...back to the original question....In my opinion, no.

RE: Expert Witnessing

(OP)
Thank you.  They seemed pretty expensive and there are certainly a lot of them, but then there are a lot of lawyers.

David

RE: Expert Witnessing


Expert witness and litigation support is 95% of my work.  The company that I work for gets work from referrals and direct marketing.  As far as I know they do not advertise.

Ron's advice is right on target.  Some attorneys don't like it if you do both defense and plaintiff work, but in the current economy, I doubt they will even get that option anymore.  My company (actually just one partner) did only defense work and with changes in the structure of construction defect litigation, he has taken on more and more plaintiff work.  There might be a bit of grey area, but generally an expert opinion should not change whether you are doing defense or plaintiff work.  Keep your expert opinions pure and if your insured or client has some culpability, let them know.  Don't become a "Liar for Hire" because eventually it will come back to haunt you.

For myself, I prefer plaintiff work because you have more control over an investigation and a timeline.  And it's usually more interesting.  Defense work is reactionary.  You are responding to claims and forced into a timeline set by others.

 

"If you are going to walk on thin ice, you might as well dance!"

RE: Expert Witnessing

(OP)
All I've done so far has been defence work, and I will probably keep it that way.  Each suit that I've accepted has generated more than a bit of outrage that the defendant has to spend money to defend that crap.  Maybe if I ever get asked to look at a case by a plaintiff where I see the merit of the suit I'll likely take it, but I haven't seen one yet and the one plaintiff that approached me had a case that I would have loved to testify for the defence.

I'm sure not seeing a lot of enthusiasm for paying to be included in a Expert Directory.  I think I'll continue to let that facet of my practice evolve by word of mouth and web searches.

David

RE: Expert Witnessing


If it's more defense work that you are after, then spend your marketing funds going to see Construction Defect attorneys.  That's who will generally be retaining your services.  Take a potential client out to lunch, preferably one that has expressed interest in using you or at least providing information such as names of colleagues who might be interested in your services.  You can also hit up insurance companies that provide liability insurance to contractors and architects.  There are three major ones.

If you find you want Plaintiff work, spend some of your marketing efforts on Personal Injury Attorneys and HOA's.  Do enough of this kind of work and eventually you will start to see the same players over and over.  You'll probably get a sense of who you would like to work for.

One word of caution.  There are attorneys out there that burn through experts.  You get hired but it take a parting of the Red Sea to get paid.  One expert walks away from the work and the next victim steps in to get the same treatment.  Talk to colleagues to find out who the worst offenders are and steer clear.  Sometimes just standing around listening to others chitchatting away will give you lots of information.  Store it away like a research project.

There are undoubtedly a few larger A/E firms that have a significant portion of their business that comes from construction defect litigation.  I'd go talk to those guys as well and let them know that you are interested in working for them if and when their own staff cannot handle the work load.

I keep a digital folder of experts that I have encountered in the field, who they work for, what they drive, and if I have a photo, I put that in as well.  I also include little tidbits of information discovered through conversations.  I initially started it as a way to remember names and faces and as a way to appear that I remembered that the last time I saw them they were in the middle of a divorce or recovery from surgery.  But the project sort of grew into a quasi private investigator sort of file.  



BTW Ron, someone had to give you a star. smile

 

"If you are going to walk on thin ice, you might as well dance!"

RE: Expert Witnessing

Cass...good idea on the PI file!  Wish I had done that.  I've run into some characters along the way as I'm sure you have as well.

David...good luck with expanding this venture for you.  I enjoy this work, whether plaintiff or defense.  Usually a little more hand holding on the plaintiff side.

Also, as I'm sure you know, most of these cases never make it to court.   

RE: Expert Witnessing


Yeah, most large class action cases don't even get close to going to a courtroom.  The little single building or home cases are different. Seems insurance companies are not so eager to pay out claims.  I've got three cases right now that are going to court in June.  Two are single family homes and one is a food processing facility.  I've already given my deposition in all and there doesn't seem to be any movement to settling.

Ron, as far as the files go, I did it just because I didn't have the memory to keep it all straight and my boss would ask if so-and-so was at a settlement conference.  So I did it to help me not look like a complete idiot most of the time.  I'm not always successful.

 

"If you are going to walk on thin ice, you might as well dance!"

RE: Expert Witnessing

I've been an expert witness for almost nine years.  I've found that it is a HUGE waste of money to advertise in printed publications (law journals, bar association magazines, etc.)and list in paper directories.  Lawyers don't read them.

If you are thinking about listing in on-line expert directories, you should be very careful.  Make sure they are active in promoting traffic on their website.  Ask to contact other experts who are satisfied with their listings.

 

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