Friday, November 06, 2009

Publicity, Practice Management, and More

I'm finally catching up on my reading and found some gems:

Being mentioned or quoted by the media can be a very effective (and inexpensive) marketing tool and who wouldn't want to be mentioned in the New York Times? See some original tips to accomplish that in this post at Nolo's Legal Marketing Blawg.

Worried about the economy's effect on expert witnesses? Head over to the Expert Witness Blog to read Rick Van Bruggen's opinion on why experts are "recession proof". While you're there - if you are based in the New York area, check out the schedule for the Gotham City Expert Witness Group.

What will happen to your practice if you have surgery? Dr. Jean Murray has some good tips for "Keeping Your Business Going After Surgery" at the Small Business Boomers blog.

And lastly, in keeping with my effort to stay on top of my "to-read" list, Scott Kirsner of the Boston Globe wrote an article on "Timely Tips to Empty Your Inbox".

Friday, October 23, 2009

Expert Witness Retainers

An expert emailed me a question about requiring fees up-front, scheduling and travel. I thought you might find our exchange interesting.

Expert's Question:
I charge a non-refundable deposit when an attorney gives me a trial date and asks me to commit to this. (I don't charge them until they ask me to make travel plans). I have been charging a full day fee since I often have to re-arrange my clinical schedule and even give up shifts to travel.

I recently had a trial that I was committed to go to be postponed and I hadn't received the deposit yet (I had worked with this firm before and trusted them).

How do other experts charge for this? Do most charge a fee before committing to travel? Non-refundable? How much?

I am wondering now if I should charge a scheduling fee, perhaps 50% of the required amount for a trial that is non-refundable. I want to be fair to the attorney since they can't control when a trial is postponed.
My Reply:

You should NOT empty your waiting room, re-arrange appointments, etc., to schedule deposition or courtroom time UNTIL you receive a check for the full,
estimated time. Then, if they postpone or cancel, you can refund money on a sliding scale (see Fee Schedule and related info in The Expert Witnessing Marketing Book) based on how easy/difficult it is and based on the date of postponement/cancellation, how easy is it is for you to restore your local work schedule.

I hear this over and over, and experts should not experience loss of income due to dates being moved by the courts and the attorneys.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What You Say and Do Will....

.... come back to haunt you. Attorney Robert Ambrogi has a great article "When What Happens Online Ends Up In Court" about ten cases in which various players in the courtroom - judges, lawyers, witnesses - found themselves in trouble due to their online activity. Some are pretty funny, but all of it serves as a reminder to be careful.

This Takes the Cake!

I've mentioned before about having contact information on promotional materials and easy to find on your websites. But now I must add -- include contact information in your directory listings and advertising! In glancing through a print directory of expert witnesses I came across a full page listing with lots of impressive information and NO contact information. No phone number, address, email address or website - NOTHING. I'm just dumbfounded.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Questions about Expert Witness Income

Have you ever been questioned by an attorney about your income as an expert witness? We recently emailed our newsletter subscribers an article about this. It struck a nerve and I have compiled the responses, which you can read here.

The most common advice seems to be to answer in percentages. How do you respond?

Do you commonly hear this question in deposition and/or trial?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Be Careful with Your Expert Witness Website

This is a caution about building and maintaining your expert witness website. As you know, everything you do, say, and write can and will be cussed and discussed and used against you. The added danger of the Internet as opposed to other venues is that once it's there, it's always there and it doesn't matter if you change it the very next day. Check out the Internet Archive and their Wayback Machine. Just type in your website address and you will see every incarnation of every page on your site since its inception and -- so can anyone else!

So what does this mean to you? If you are just building a website, don't just slap something up to have a website. If you have a website, be vigilant about who can add pages, update pages, etc., and proofread everything before putting it out there. Some things you just can't take back.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Expert Witness Deposition Video

Being from Texas, we are familiar with Frontier Justice. We just don't often expect to see it in current times, much less in an expert witness deposition.

Check out this excerpt of a deposition of an expert witness by the famous (infamous?) Houston attorney, Joe Jamail.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mid-Year Review for Expert Witnesses

This is two-pronged post. First, a gentle reminder about staying on top of your marketing. Now is a good time to check your directory listings and advertising to make sure a) all your contact information is still current and listed correctly and b) that your description/key words accurately describe your practice. It's also a good time to analyze what's providing the best results.

On another front, attorney Robert Ambrogi recently wrote about 2009's Top Five Expert Rulings to date that includes decisions about improper exclusion and the right to confront an expert - decisions that could affect you.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Expert Witnesses and Retirement

Have you planned for retirement? Will you simply close up shop and end your practice? Are you considering selling your expert witness practice? Many experts have contemplated this issue. And it matters, even it seems years away, because your end goals could affect the practice management and marketing decisions you make today and in the years to come.

Here is what one expert emailed me on the subject:

"Question: In a year or two, I would like to retire but I don't know what to do about my clients and practice. I have been an expert witness for about 20 years and have built a good nationwide practice with a number of law firms that use my services over and over along with a constant flow of new clients. My web site has an "employment" section that implies a qualified associate has the potential of acquiring the practice in addition to making a respectable income. The employment section has been on the web site for 6 or 8 months but so far there has not been any interest."

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear your experiences and plans. Please leave your thoughts in the comments or email me at Also contact me if you would be interested in writing a guest article on this topic or a related one for our newsletter, Expert News.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Help This Expert: Working with a Disability

I recently received a question from an expert about how to continue an expert witness practice when the expert has a disabling health condition. Here's the email I received:

"A colleague of mine is a self-employed expert witness. He works out of a home office in a fairly rural town, and is occasionally called upon to travel to a client's offices or meet with attorneys. Last winter he suffered a stroke, and now finds that he cannot leave his home without assistance, and some of the tasks associated with his work are much more time consuming than before. This has raised some significant challenges as his recovery progresses, and I suspect other expert witnesses have already navigated these decisions.

At what point should one disclose a handicap to potential clients? Should one bill differently for tasks that take longer than before? How can one minimize having to work outside the home? Should all self-employed people carry long-term disability insurance? What accomodations are reasonable for a handicapped person to expect when he must travel to a deposition? There are many other questions surrounding this issue, but thus far I have more questions than answers."

I suspect some of you have faced this issue already and we should probably all consider what we would do. Please give any words of wisdom or resources you know of to help this expert.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sotomayor and Expert Witnesses

As one who majored in Government and Politics, I follow the Supreme Court rather closely. The change in make-up I see coming in the next four, eight, twelve years, starting with Sotomayor, fascinates me. Attorney Roger Ambrogi's article on Sonia Sotomayor's Top 5 Rulings on Experts provides a look into how her trial court experience affected her appellate opinions and maybe what we can expect if she is confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Going On Vacation?

Vacation season is here. Many of you will be notify callers of your absence through your voice mail message. Jim Calloway's recent post about the message you compose offers sound advice that applies to your "out-of-office" automatic email response as well. It had never occured to me that leaving the beginning date of your leave could be detrimental but his reasoning is sound. Check it out. (Although his advice is written for attorneys, it applies to expert witnesses as well).

Also, a reminder from me to make sure you change your message as soon as you return and turn off your automatic email reply.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tracking (and Billing) Time

I've been reading numerous articles and posts lately about how much billable time is not billed. Expert consultants that bill by the hour (which should be most, since billing based on outcome is unethical!) are definitely at risk. In our fast-paced world of constant email, phone calls and other interruptions, it is easy to neglect writing down that fifteen minutes working on X before the next interruption. Later, you may not be sure or may think "it wasn't enough to worry about" and so on. But that time adds up and let's face it, your time is money.

I know there are many time-tracking tools, both online and in billing software. Are you using any? What would you recommend to other experts?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Recommending Other Expert Witnesses

We've had an on-going discussion with our newsletter readers about getting payment from insurance companies. Within that discussion, I received the following email with an interesting story pertinent to marketing an expert witness practice:

I provide expert witness services in the insurance and reinsurance industries both in court and in arbitrations. Here is a recent experience. I was called by "Joe", a client for whom I have been retained a few times. He needed an expert in marine cargo insurance. I declined, as this is not an area of my expertise. Joe asked if I knew of anyone who could qualify; I told him I would help if possible. I then called "Jim", a fellow expert/friend, passing along the request from Joe. Jim said he didn't qualify, but he was in turn trying to assist an attorney in locating an expert in a certain type of property insurance, and asked if I knew of anyone with that background. I said "yes-me"; Jim said he would pass it along. I then called "Dick" another expert/friend about the marine cargo. He was qualified and was grateful for the lead. I asked him to call Joe. Right after that, an attorney called, said Jim had recommended me and wanted to discuss the engagement.

Here is the outcome of these events:
-- I got the property insurance engagement from the attorney Jim was trying to help. It was a very lucrative and challenging assignment.
-- The law firm that engaged me is a major player in this arena; now they know me well, and a name partner told me "we'll work together again."
-- After testifying at the arbitration Hearing, I received calls for expert service that I traced back to recommendations from the chairman of the arbitration panel.
-- Dick was retained by Joe for the marine cargo case, and was grateful for my recommendation-this will reinforce our assisting one another in cases that we cannot take ourselves.
-- Joe called thanking me for recommending Dick-this keeps me on Joe's radar screen as well.

All of this happened as a result of me receiving a call for a case that I couldn't take. Instead of stopping at "no thanks", my thought was to help some friends and keep my name in front of them. I view every call as a possible opportunity. When approached on something outside of my expertise, I will tell the attorney "I understand that subject and have some familiarity with it. However, actual job responsibilities with the specific subject have not been sufficient to prevent me from being vulnerable under cross-examination, and I would not do anything that might detract from the merits of your case. Therefore, I must decline." Almost always, they express gratitude for expressing it as a respect for their client and the client's interest. I can then often nudge the conversation to my areas of expertise, get in a brief pitch, and follow up with a CV. Again, it's a way to create a potential opportunity out of a declination.

Sounds like a win-win situation to me. Do you see any potential pitfalls?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Keep Your Practice Busy

If your expert witness practice is suffering in this economy, asking yourself a few questions might spark some new ideas to get more business:

Is there an industry going through a lot of litigation right now that you could target?

Is there an additional service you could provide, such as helping attorneys when conducting depositions of other experts (what questions to ask, etc.), or reviewing files?

Do your current and past clients know all of the services you can provide?

Can prospects easily find out what services you provide and the industries and types of cases you handle?

Could you expand the geographic area in which you currently practice?

Are there issues in the news that you could address either in a press release or by contacting the reporter directly to offer expert commentary?

What steps have you taken in the past to get business that worked? Are you still using those methods?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thoughtleading for Expert Witnesses

"Become the Go-To Authority" caught my eye, so I placed the book on my Amazon list and finally got around to reading it a few months later. Ken Lizotte's book, The Expert's Edge, is about how to become a "thoughtleader" and authority in your field. Although not all of it is applicable to expert witnesses because of the unique nature of the legal field (not being an advocate, possible contradictions in opinions, etc.), much of his advice is at least thought-provoking.

The book centers around the five pillars of thoughtleading:

Pillar 1: Publishing your ideas
Pillar 2: Speaking before groups
Pillar 3: Keeping your edge with fresh thinking
Pillar 4: Creatively leveraging the Internet
Pillar 5: Making vigorous use of the media

A quick, worthwhile read.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Your Expert Witness Practice & The Unexpected

What happens after the unexpected? I know I harp on preparing for disaster, the future, and the unexpected, but I was recently reminded of another factor in the equation.

The wife of an expert witness who died unexpectedly contacted me last week. She was trying to close his practice in the most responsible way possible - contacting clients, trying to refer them to other experts, returning files to attorneys, etc. It was overwhelming, especially trying to collect unpaid fees and expenses. I helped her as much as I could, but it served as a reminder that we should think about who will handle what we leave behind and how we can make it easier on them.

If you are uncomfortable discussing such things, write some instructions to be available after the "unexpected". Perhaps even try to divide duties among more than one person. Please give it some thought.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Expert Witness Practice a Little Quiet?

If your practice is less busy than you would like right now, make use of the extra time by spiffing up your database of contacts. Enter those business cards you collected at your last association meeting. Scroll through and see if a referral source deserves a thank you. Are there lists of prospects you could buy or compile for your database? As Rosalie Hamilton says in The Expert Witness Marketing Book:

"Communication is the lifeblood of promotion. A well-built, well-maintained database is one of your most valuable businss assets. Possibly you could even sell the information to a younger expert witness in your field when you retire. For now, your database is your field of prospects. The better you create and cultivate that field, the greater will be the crop you harvest. "

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Marketing Resolutions

Have you made any marketing resolutions for the New Year? This post from Lyne Noella might spark some ideas for your own practice. She listed her Top 5 New Year's Resolutions, all applicable to expert witness/professional services marketing.

(Hat tip to Michelle Golden for the heads ups on this post)