Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More Expert Witness Resources & News

Thank you to everyone for sending me the latest on happenings and resources for expert witnesses. Here's a summary of the latest:

The Round Table Group has introduced their blog for expert witnesses with a focus on web strategies to help experts and lawyers communicate.

Registration is open for SEAK's 17th Annual National Expert Witness Conference. Check out the line-up which adds two new pre-conferences and features a faculty that includes four distinguished judges.

Attorney-run JurisPro just worked out an agreement to have their expert clients made accessible through the national law firm of Fried Frank - another addition to the major law firms with internal access to JurisPro experts.

Rominger Legal has just added an Expert News feed to their expert witness directory. It contains various expert blogs and expert witness news stories pulled from the search engines.

The library at ExpertPages now includes over a hundred case summaries from circuit courts of appeals, where expert testimony was discussed and the library is regularly adding new expert articles to their library.

The expert networking group in New York has taken off with gusto. It is open to any expert witnesses and the next meeting is scheduled for February 25 at 12:30 at Fabio Piccolo Fiore, 230 E 44th between 2nd and 3rd Ave. For more information, email geraldgoldhaber@yahoo.com.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Podcast from the Entrepreneurial MD

Philippa Kennealy, the Entrepreneurial MD, recently interviewed Rosalie Hamilton, the Expert Witness Marketing Consultant about helping professionals develop expert witness practices. Philippa links to the free podcast of the interview in this blog post.

Of course I'm biased, but I think Rosalie (my mother) sounds great!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Engagement Agreements Between Experts & Attorneys

We frequently receive questions about retainers, contracts, billing, collections, etc., from experts. Some experts are hesitant to require an engagement agreement from their attorney-clients for fear of driving them away or appearing too demanding or some such idea.

Look - you are operating a business, just like your attorney-client. They utilize standard business practices, including engagement agreements, and so should you. I could go on and on about this, but there's nothing like hearing it from the horse's mouth. I found three different resources where attorneys themselves give advice to expert witnesses on this very subject.

In the presentation, "How to Be Picked, But Not Picked Apart" at our Tampa seminar, attorney Lee Gunn briefly touched on this issue. Here are some of his comments:
Communication, including the terms of engagement, scope of engagement, required retention, billing practices, frequency, payments, interest rates are all important elements of what you do ... a reasonable letter and agreement signed by the qualified agent of the hiring party is appropriate, should be asked for, is not offensive and avoids the angst and agony of confusion and surprise.
Attorney Rhoda Faller gives advice to experts regarding fees in the e-book, Expert Witness Preparation for Deposition and Trial. Included in her recommendations is this list:
Be clear as to your billing. It should be established, in writing, what your fee is for:

- Reviewing records
- Writing a report, if one is requested
- Your deposition or trial preparation time, including meeting with the attorney
- The actual deposition or trial time
- Any minimum time to be paid for a deposition or trial
- Travel time
- Who will make the travel arrangements
- If there are any special travel arrangements you require
- How much notice you require or cancellation of a deposition or trial appearance before you require payment
- Amount of retainer you require
- When you require a retainer
- If you require payment in advance for a review of records, a deposition, and trial
- How far in advance you require payment
She also advises, "Requiring upfront payment is not a bad idea unless you know the attorney well and have worked with him/her before. You do not want to go chasing your fee." I couldn't agree more!

And if you're still not convinced, here's what Steven Babitsky, Esq., James J. Mangraviti, Jr., Esq., and Alex Babitsky, MBA, have to say on the subject in The A-Z Guide to Expert Witnessing in the introduction to the chapter on fees, billings and collections:
An expert witness is entitled to be paid a reasonable fee for her time and expertise. (As an expert, an individual is paid for her time, not for her testimony.) The successful expert understands the engagement process, how much to charge, what to charge for, and how and when to collect her fees.

Experts should have the key financial terms of their engagement clearly laid out in writing before agreeing to work on a case. (Appendix R contains sample fee schedules, letters, and agreements.) These documents need to specifically cover terms including fees (including cancellation fees), billings, retainers, travel, expenses, and interest for overdue accounts.
For additional opinions and advice, you might take a look at our previous discussion on this issue in the free special report, Expert Pay Discussion, where many experts shared their opinions and best practices.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Marketing Lessons from Obama and Huckabee

I follow the major political races pretty closely (my major at University was politics and government). Regardless of your ideology, there are marketing lessons we can take from the current campaigns for president.

One reason the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary are so key is the simple fact that it's not possible for the candidates to speak one-on-one to every voter in the country. But, they can, within those two small states, speak individually to many constituents. The results of those two races eliminate some contenders completely and put others at the forefront in the eyes of the nation.

The lesson: Face-to-face interaction matters. People choose - whether in elections or for professional services - people they know, or feel like they know. We remember faces and in-person conversations with much more affinity than we do a letter from a stranger or an ad in a publication.

So meet people. Include direct prospects but also possible referral sources and just anyone and let them know what you do. As Harry Beckwith says in The Invisible Touch, "Business is about people."

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Tech Rant

I try not to get too personal in my blog posts, but I am frustrated. In preparing for the start of the new year, I have been evaluating our technology and anticipated needs, costs, etc. I am highly annoyed at the need to "update" everything, even when it has been meeting our needs perfectly well since the last update. But, one way or another, we are forced into upgrades - customer support will no longer be provided; replacement parts are no longer available; the product will no longer be compatible with the newer version, which our clients will likely be using; so forth and so on. AAAAARRRRGGGHH!

How do you handle this in your own homes and offices? With your computers, cell phones, printers, PDAs, software, scanners, etc.?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Expert Practice Management

One reader of our newsletter for experts recently shared with me these business model suggestions he uses in managing his own expert witness and consulting practice:
"These are basic operating rules that, in my opinion, if broken will cause problems:

1. Keep a low overhead. I work from my home, have resisted the temptation to pay anyone else rent. If the money is not coming in I don't have someone else looking for a check every month.

2. Stay out of debt. This sinks most businesses. I have a new car but it's not a Mercedes, BMW, etc. and I keep them 6 or 7 years. If you need a new car for a site visit or to impress a client, rent one for the day.

3. Keep a cash reserve. I always have at least a year of operating revenue in a CD. I do this not only for bad times but in place of buying disability insurance which has at least a 90 day deductible and is very pricey."

Do you agree with these suggestions? What are your "hard and fast" rules for maintaining a healthy practice? Share your policies and procedures in the Comments.

My Wishes for You in 2008

I don't know if it ever occurred to him that everything he said might someday be quoted but Benjamin Franklin had a knack for saying the right words for every occasion, so I will borrow his words in sending you my wishes for this new year:

"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each year find you a better man."