Thursday, June 22, 2006

Are Attorneys Just Plain Stingy?

There is nothing like the subject of being (or not being) paid by attorneys to get experts talking! After recent comments and articles on the subject, I received quite a bit of feedback. I would like to share some of those emails and our responses now and in future posts. (You can read other comments by experts from a discussion on this subject we had last year in our free special report Expert Pay Discussion) You may have faced similar situations or, may learn how to prevent such problems from occurring. Here's one situation that many of you may have encountered:

"I'm an expert with 20 plus years experience. Only about 10% of my cases end up in court, but in the past week I've had an issue arise regarding deposition fees.

My client attorney failed to communicate to the deposing attorney that my fee for a depo is double that of my normal hourly rate and that I require a two-hour minimum payment (since they don't pay time and mileage). Because of this, I traveled 200 miles (round trip) and spent a half-day for payment of one hour at my regular rate. The deposing attorney refused to pay the additional time or my standard depo rate. Also, the judge ordered the parties back to court at exactly the time I was due to be deposed, which meant I was left cooling my heels for an additional three hours. Nobody paid for this time. Is there a way around this situation?"

"Absolutely there is. You never leave your office for a deposition without having received, in advance, a check for the estimated time of the deposition plus travel time. An expert does well to get paid by the attorney who engaged him, much less by opposing counsel. This was an expensive lesson, but use it to set future policy.

Experts have experienced so much difficulty in getting paid for legal work that I devoted two entire chapters to this subject in my book, The Expert Witness Marketing Book and it is my favorite topic at expert conferences. Because the difficulties are not necessary -- all you have to do is get retainers, signatures, prepayment, etc. in advance.

If you are assertive enough, you rarely have to become aggressive. A situation like the one you now find yourself in requires being aggressive, and even then will most likely not end well. Plus, it does not feel good to have to become aggressive. Do yourself a favor and handle issues of getting paid beforehand."

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