Thursday, April 26, 2007

Requirements for a Successful Expert Practice

This article was written by attorney Edward Poll of and actually addresses attorneys and what he has discovered every lawyer must do to be successful. But I think if you substitute "expert" for the word "lawyer" in each of his recommendations, his wisdom applies equally well in most cases (but not all - for example, experts should NOT "sell solutions" as suggested in number three on his list!).

Read his quick list of ten requirements out and see what you can apply to make your expert practice more successful.

Protective Billing Practices for Expert Witnesses

One comment in response to my post about experts discounting their fees I think could be helpful to many of you.
"We have adopted policies to protect ourselves against being abused at the end of cases.

* Nonrefundable portion of retainer. Experiences where the mention of our being hired facilitated settlement and suggestions that we shouldn't earn a fee because we did no work caused this one.
* Apply the retainer to the last bill.
* Must be current at important milestones, e.g., prior to deposition or trial testimony or issuance of final reports.
* Regular billing. This not only avoids surprises, but starts the clock running on a/r.

Nothing new in the above, but simple things like staying on top of billing, and exercising leverage when one has it (prior to something happening that the lawyers want)."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Caution to Experts Who Discount Their Fees

In our recent discussion about collecting fees owed from attorneys, several experts reported instances in which they ultimately accepted a percentage of what they were owed to get at least SOMETHING. In a recent blog post, "Contingent-fee experts?" at, attorney Ted Frank explains why this might not be a good idea.

The key to avoiding getting into this situation is to work, as much as possible, against money already paid, whether called retainer or pre-payment for expected time in deposition or court. We have horror stories, such as an expert canceling appointments and flying across the country, whereupon the case settled and he was paid nothing, "because he didn't testify." So for an expert to be asked to reduce his already earned and owed fees does not, unfortunately, surprise us.

Don't let yourself get into a situation where you feel you have to discount your fees.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Latest News for Expert Witnesses

A recent post at the Drug and Device Law Blog analyzes in great detail a recent proposal by the American Law Institute for changing the requirements of expert witness testimony from the standard "reasonable degree of professional certainty" requirement currently in use by many states. The authors, Mark Herrmann and James Beck, strongly oppose this drafted 'restatement' and provide sound reasoning in this well-written post. Although initially addressing the medical expert, they ultimately include all other areas of expertise as well. Check it out - "ALI Draft...."

I recently alerted readers to the postal increases going into effect on May 14. I had not yet read them in detail myself at that time. I was a bit taken aback when I read the article, "Are You Ready for the New Postal Regulations and a Whopping Increase in Costs?" by Ellen Freedman and comprehended the expensive implications of these changes. As she illustrates the problem:
"Currently our postal system operates on strictly a weight-based methodology. . . Effective May 14th, we will move to a shape-based pricing system. Under the new system, there will be three different pricing factors: size; thickness; and weight. There are even some rigidity factors which can influence cost, meaning that if you stuff the envelope so tightly it cannot b end, there is an additional cost."
Read this article, as you might need to change the terms of your engagement agreement based on the amount of mailing your practice does during the course of work.

Last August, we were so touched by the kind words many of you sent on the loss of our friend and client, Tim Snoddy, in the Kentucky plane crash. His family has created a memorial site for him that beautifully describes what a special man he was and will continue to be in the hearts of those who were blessed to know him.

Finally, I can't ignore what's in front of all of us at this moment. Please keep in mind and heart the victims, families and all others involved in this terrible event at Virginia Tech.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Listen and Hear - It Matters

A well-respected and admired local news anchor here in the Tampa area recently committed suicide. The coverage has been touching to say the least. But Steve Otto's column about this tragedy in the Tampa Tribune this morning contained some very wise words for all of us. He wrote:
"Sometimes I think we only let others speak in order to catch our own breath and get on with what we want to say when there is a pause.
It wouldn't hurt to actually listen to what people are saying and then think about what it is they said before continuing with whatever it was we were talking about."
I will be reminding myself of this in both my personal and business communications because I think it's an easy habit to fall into and we end up missing out in many ways.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Are You Missing Calls?

I received an email from a business associate this week with a proposal for me to consider. So I picked up the phone to call him. I got a busy signal. I figured it was a fluke and tried again the next morning. Still busy.

There is just no excuse in this day and age to ever encounter a busy signal when calling a business. At the very least you can get call-waiting and a voice mail system for about $10 a month. It's a cost of doing business - and who doesn't want more business?

Don't make it hard for potential clients to reach you; they won't waste time trying repeatedly. They will simply move on to the next name on their list.

Check out your phone system occasionally. Call and see how it is answered if you have a receptionist or what your voice mail message sounds like. How many rings before the phone is answered? Is the greeting (live or recorded) professional? Are there any background noises? Is there room in your system for the caller to leave a message? (Too often I hear "Mailbox is full"!)

Don't turn down business without even knowing about it.

Friday, April 06, 2007

News/Opinions about Expert Witnesses

In view of our recent conversations about the policing and regulating of expert witnesses by various groups and governments, here's a selection of recent news and commentaries:

A recent case in Miami highlights the dangers of exaggerating your credentials. In this case it resulted in criminal charges for the expert. Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger of the Dale County Medical Association gives some tips for avoiding this situation and the article giving all the details.

The Legal Profession Blog points out what could be a very important case for experts and issues of liability in Suit Against Expert Witness Backfires

David P. Lowe, Milwaukee personal injury lawyer, discusses Intimidation of Expert Witnesses, commenting that, "Added to caps on damage awards, expert witness intimidation is yet another unfair obstacle placed in the path of innocent victims who seek to have their day in court in an effort to obtain compensation."

The Register Herald reports on "Group seeking 'code of ethics' for medical witnesses" with interesting statistics from a University of Virginia study, such as "72 percent [of doctors surveyed] had seen or heard testimony by a medical expert they felt was either in error or based on questionable science."

Robert Ambrogi offers his take on the now infamous Eli Lilly case in which documents were leaked by an expert in An Expert's Escapade.

And finally, I just found this human banter in our very formal Supreme Court of the United States rather unusual and sweet.