Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Computer Crisis

I feel comfortable with technology in most respects; if I don't know how to do something, I'm comfortable poking about until I figure it out. Lesson learned - This is NOT always a good idea.

Yesterday morning, I begin my usual routine when my cat awakens me at 5:23 a.m. I stumble to the kitchen, feed the cat, start the coffee and open my laptop. Okaaayy. . . Close the laptop, open again. Nada. Push 'hibernate' button. Nope. Oh sh*&!

So, still in my jammies, teeth not brushed, I sit down at the desk and begin trying different tricks - unplugging and replugging, holding down certain keys, you name it. Finally, it reboots. Aaahh, okay, I can breathe now.

Go fix a cup of coffee while it revs up, turn on the lights, start making the bed . . . but wait, that doesn't look right. It's the start-up screen from when I first got the laptop. I register all over again, hoping and praying, but alas, when it finally comes up, NOTHING. All of my settings, documents, programs - they're ALL GONE!

I look at the clock -- it's 6:00 a.m. -- I don't think my tech guy would appreciate a call at this hour and I obviously can't email him. So I start to try other things, like PC Recovery. Supposedly this allows you to return to an earlier date on your computer and recapture everything from that time. I tried it; no luck.

At this point, I start making calls and the first thing I hear is "Don't do anything! Move away from the computer!"

To make a long story a little bit shorter, I had already made it harder to recover the data. After hours of sweating it out, a data recovery specialist came to the house and was able to recover MOST of my hard drive.

I share this not as a plea for sympathy, but as a lesson learned and a warning to others - When it comes to technology, if you don't know what caused the problem in the beginning, DON'T attempt to repair it yourself. I was lucky. (Sidenote: Backup your hard drive religiously!)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Should Experts Charge When Trial Date Changes?

An expert witness recently emailed me with the following question about billing:
"I have been an expert in many cases over the last 10 years, but it is usually a small portion of my annual revenue . . . In the last three years the opportunities have increased, [leading to a few basic questions].

Is it customary to bill clients for the days committed to for trial dates when the trial is subsequently cancelled, settled or postponed?

If the dates are locked on my calendar, I do not schedule my regular consulting business events, but at times they cancel only a few weeks or less before the scheduled trial. This causes issues with revenue of course as I typically schedule events in my business 6 to 8 weeks in advance.

I normally do get a retainer, so I do have the money, but have refunded clients in the past. What do the attorneys expect? What do other experts do? Do I disclose this policy at the time of engagement?"
My recommendation: Yes, you bill for that time and yes you disclose your policy in the engagement agreement you have your attorney-client sign prior to beginning work. You are giving up billable hours you cannot get back and should be compensated for that time. I would also urge you to set your retainer high enough to cover a half-day of testimony at a minimum.

Okay experts - what are your thoughts? How do you handle this situation? Have you received any backlash?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Potential Dangers of Expert Blogging

In a recent blog post of his own, UCLA law Professor Stephen Bainbridge illustrates some potential dangers for academics and participants in the legal community who blog. Although written in response to the firing of a blogger by the John Edwards campaign, Professor Bainbridge points out:'re bound to say something that offends somebody. And then it'll be out there forever. Judicial nomination? Political appointment? lateral hire at a "better" law school? Expert witness deposition? Congressional hearing? Forget about it.
I've commented before about the potential for blogs to be especially dangerous for expert witnesses as providing fodder for opposing counsel. If you choose to blog, or for that matter, post anything to the Internet, I remind you of Rosalie's advice to experts in The Expert Witness Marketing Book:
All of your writing and speaking is discovereable and can be cussed and discussed with you in deposition and in court. Be careful. Be consistent. Investigate, verify, and cross-examine your facts. Proofread, proofread, and proofread again.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Building a Successful Expert Witness Practice

If you subscribe to our newsletter Expert News, you have read our recommendations about the upcoming 16th Annual National Expert Witness Conference in Cape Cod this June. This multi-day conference by SEAK has sessions and preconferences for every type of expert, in every discipline, from novice to old-hand, consulting to testifying.

But there are so many sessions and preconferences to look at that I want to point out a special one. If you are mentoring someone new to expert witnessing or have a friend who is considering starting their own practice, I strongly recommend you steer them to this preconference - How to Start and Build a Successful Expert Witness Practice This intensive introductory workshop will be presented by Terrance Baker, MD, an extremely experienced expert witness and one of my favorite members of the SEAK faculty . At the SEAK conference I attended in Chicago a few years back, I was so impressed by his enthusiasm, knowledge and integrity.

So think about those in your circle who could use this information. Even if the whole conference would be too much for the beginning expert, recommend just this preconference workshop - it could make a big difference in their future success.

"Out of Office" Automatic Email Responses

In several instances recently, my emails to various experts have resulted in an automatic "Out of Office" reply email. This is a great function and allows users to offer other methods of contact if necessary or informs others of when the intended receiver will return.

The problem is this: I emailed these individuals in the first week of February. Their "Out of Office" reply messages ranged from "I will be out of the office from January 12 to January 25" to the worst "I am out of the country right now and will return December 26"!

Reminder: If you set up an "Out of Office" reply, don't forget to disable it upon your return.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

You Never Know Who You'll Meet

I apologize for the long silence - I took a real vacation! I've been on a cruise for the last week with my brother and sister-in-law. It was a bit stormy, but wonderful nonetheless.

Of course a cruise is THE time to let your hair down, relax, party : ), and forget about everyday life. Having said that, I must admit that I was reminded of the old maxim - It's a small world. As tends to happen in the normal course of conversation, those of us seated at the same dining table began discussing our professions. I had (thank goodness) practiced what I preach and placed several business cards in my evening clutch. I handed them ALL out! (Fortunately, I had several more in my laptop case in my cabin for the rest of the trip!)

I did not 'do' business or anything of the sort -- I truly took a vacation. However, now that I'm back in the swing of things, I will be following up on those connections. Moral of the story: Always carry your business cards - you never know who you will meet.