Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Expert Witness News & Resources

Here is a brief compilation of a few of the most recent (out of the many I go through daily) articles, tips and resources for expert consultants:

* Another reminder to adhere to the accepted standards and methodology of your particular discipline in this article, "Expert Grilled on Methodology"

* 'Be prepared for questions (fair or not) regardiing your qualifications,' would surely be the recommendation of the expert witness discussed in this article from The Miami Herald "Heart Surgeon Faces Criminal Charges"

* This was interesting to me because an expert's duties often include the examination and analysis of opposing experts' testimony, but this time, as reported by Computer Businesss Review Online, it could ruin the case "Motorala Faces Heavy Legal Fine"

* A head's up on preparing expense reports this year - The IRS, as of January 1, 2007, raised the per mile deductible auto expens from 44.5 to 48.5 cents per mile for business miles. The medical and moving rate is now 20 cents per mile.

* Another possible resource (I have no personal experience with these services) for collecting fees from attorneys - Dun & Bradstreet's small business division offers several tools to collect on delinquent accounts.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Attorney to Attorney Advice Helpful to Expert Witnesses

A blog post by Rick Kuykendall at the Trial Lawyer Resource Center listed these five questions as the basics for conducting an expert deposition:

1. Who engaged you in this case?

2. What did they ask you to do?

3. What did you do?

4. What conclusions, opinions did you reach and what do you intend to testify to at trial?

5. Were there any other tests, analysis, or other things you could have done or would have liked to have done?

At a minimum, be prepared to answer these questions.

One Expert's Method for Handling a Billing Dispute

Attorneys and experts disagree on payment - nothing new there. But this expert refuses to take it lying down in a battle with the Department of Health and Human Services in Arkansas. His bill was for $165,000 originally, and more than $200,000 after late fees and charges for the additional documentation they requested were added; the state claims that $60,000 is more than fair.

As Charlotte Tubbs reported in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette article "Agency, witness tangling over pay":
"Quietly, a two-year battle brewed behind the high-profile court case between the department and the witness it hired, George Rekers. The dispute involved department requests for billing explanations, Rekers' accusations that the department's attorney behaved unethically and department accusations that Rekers conducted unnecessary research."
The whole article is quite interesting, with other unrelated bits of information such as how that department chooses experts for litigation:
"Professional and academic requirements are case-dependent. 'There are times when academic skills are important and sometimes experience is more important,' [Health and Human Services Department spokesman Julie Munsell] said."
I wonder how this will affect the expert's reputation with other attorneys? With the court system in general? If he gets paid, will it be worth it?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Research Yourself Online

Attorneys occasionally write articles advising other attorneys on various methods and sources for finding or researching experts. I am vigilant about reading these articles, often written from a certain sector of law such as IP or medical malpractice, because every so often they list a tip that can help experts in that field reach their prospects.

Carole Levitt and Mark Rosch of Internet for Lawyers, recently wrote such an article, "Internet Research Digs up Private Matters", but with a slightly different slant. They look at research from the perspective of 'what if convential methods of background research were unavailable' --
"...lawyers will have to conduct their investigative research "outside the box" of public records -- and this may be easier than you think, because people increasingly post sensitive, personally identifiable information to the Internet via blogs, Web sites, podcasts, group discussions and social network sites."
When I researched a few names using ideas from this article, I frankly found it kind of scary in a 'big-brother' sort of way.

In addition to looking yourself up through the methods in the article, I recommend you put your name into Google (in quotes "John Smith") and other search engines every month or so and see what comes up. You might be surprised.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Email Is Not Duct Tape

Email is wonderful. I know, I know, SPAM is overwhelming, we receive the same 'funnies' five times in one day (and then again several months later from those who missed it the first time), and so on. But overall, I am grateful for the vast communication channels it has made available to all people. Free, almost instantaneous communication with anyone around the world has been an amazing advance in my lifetime.

As with all forms of communication however, it has its place. Just as one shouldn't deliver bad news by singing telegram, the efficiency of email does not excuse its use in place of the appropriate form of communication.

Exspecially if the issue is important, a phone call is often warranted. With SPAM filters, server hiccups, and computer gremlins, you have no guarantee that your email was received. And not everyone appreciates the 'notify sender when received' function.

If the issue is emotional or could in any way be misinterpreted, a face-to-face meeting or phone call is the safer option.

In light of the new Federal Rules of Evidence and heightened awareness of e-discovery, your attorney-client may appreciate your thoughtfulness in discussing case-related matters verbally rather than putting them in an email that may later prove to be discoverable. And email never dies -- it lives forever on the receiver's computer, your ISP's server, webmail, a PDA, etc.

Finally, because its use is so prevalent, when you take the time to make a phone call, pen a hand-written note or - gasp! - see someone in person, it truly stands out for that individual. You have made your contact person feel important and as a result, made yourself memorable in his or her mind.

Without a doubt, I will continue to take advantage of this wonderful tool and hope you do as well. But maybe we should ask ourselves from time to time, "Is this the best way to send this message?"