Thursday, August 31, 2006

Untapped Resources for Expert Witnesses

With the information overload we all suffer from, it is easy to settle for the obvious resources for advice, such as material written specifically for your field or industry, or designed especially for expert witnesses.

But if you limit your search in this way, you may be missing out on some great 'insider' information. Articles, newsletters, blogs and books written by and for attorneys can provide a treasure trove of knowledge you can use to improve your skills, performance and success as an expert consultant.

For example, one newsletter I subscribe to is Trial Tips Newsletter by Elliott Wilcox, a Florida trial attorney. In the last few issues he has been sharing tips on creating a clear appellate court record, that he came up with after conversations with a dozen or more court reporters. One of many points experts could find helpful:
"Look up and speak for the record. One of the less obvious tips the court reporters shared was about how your posture affects the record. When read [from your notes] or quote extensively from [records, datasheets, interviews], you probably have a tendency to talk into the piece of paper or down to the paper on your desk. When you look at your papers, rather than looking up ... your voice comes out mumbled, you speak too fast to be understood, you don't pronounce each word individually, and your record comes out garbled. To create a better record, stand up straight, minimize your dependence on your notes, and look at the person you want to persuade."

Don't forget to investigate blogs written by and/or for attorneys, like one by the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. Here's an excerpt from the July 11th post of Tuesday's Litigation Tip
"Do not ask the expert "Why?" or "How can you say that?" (unless you can effectively handle the answer and unless you know in advance that you can effectively handle the answer)."

With books, you'll need to set some criteria or the choices available will overwhelm you. One that I like, written to help lawyers work with expert witnesses, is Expert Rules - 100 (and More) Points You Need to Know About Expert Witnesses by David M. Malone. Here's the kind of advice he offers attorneys about experts:
"When two experts are reasonably equally qualified, choose the expert with whom you feel more comfortable working and spending time. If you and the expert do not enjoy working together, then you will tend to avoid the frequent communication and long hours of preparation that are necessary to succeed. You can think of this as the 'glass of beer' test: if you wouldn't enjoy sitting down and having a glass of beer with the expert, then you probably shouldn't hire her, if you have any choice at all. Expert work is hard enough without overlaying it with personality problems (even if it is your personality that is at fault)."

As long as you take into consideration that the intended reader of these publications is attorneys, I think you might find some to be quite helpful. I'm putting together a 'how-to guide' with tips on finding legal articles, blogs, and newsletters that relate to specific areas of expertise and particular issues. I'll get that done over the holiday weekend and post it here next week.

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