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?

1 comment:

Dr. Shmuel said...

Totally agree with your response. If one loses business due to blocked out days, the client should be charged appropriately.

For expert like me, i.e. academics, the same typically is not the case. The only exception is when you drop one client to accommodate another.