More often than not, an expert’s help can make or break a legal case.
Qualifications alone are not dispositive when deciding if an expert is right for a specific case. Oftentimes, other factors come into play that may sway an attorney when deciding to retain one expert over another. If you engaged in an initial conversation with an attorney and thought it went well only to never hear from them again, it may have nothing to do with you. Here are a few things that may have happened:
1) Your Contact Information is Out-of-Date
The first step in being retained as an expert is easy enough—stay connected! Now more than ever, attorneys expect expert professionals to be easily reached across different means of communication. Whether you prefer to be reached on your office number, cell number, or email address, always make sure your contact information is accurate, up-to-date, and accessible to hiring attorneys.
In the midst of litigation, attorneys have a lot on their plates and do not want to spend inordinate amounts of time tracking down potential experts. At Expert Institute, we’re aware of the deadlines attorneys are working with on the cases. We want to help you connect with these attorneys as fast as possible, so providing us with the best and most up-to-date way of reaching you is a simple but critical first step in getting retained in more cases.
2) You Haven’t Responded Fast Enough
In the same vein, you will want to respond to all direct inquiries from attorneys—or inquiries from the Expert Institute on behalf of attorneys—as soon as possible. As mentioned earlier, attorneys are usually under stressful time constraints during litigation and appreciate quick responses from expert witnesses. In addition, quickly responding to an attorney’s request for your opinion is a great way to show that you’re a conscientious communicator. A prompt message goes a long way in demonstrating that you will be responsive should you and the attorney begin working together.
3) Your Resume is Out-of-date
You also want to ensure that your expert witness resume or expert witness CV (curriculum vitae) is as comprehensive and as up-to-date as possible. Attorneys need to be able to gauge whether you meet their case’s requirements and possess the necessary education and experience for the job. Timeframes are important, especially if the attorney operates in a jurisdiction that mandates experts work in a particular field for a certain amount of time. Likewise, licenses to practice (i.e., medical or law license) must be up-to-date and clearly ascertainable from your resume. Because your resume is the first look an attorney gets at your qualifications, you should always proofread it for inaccuracies and update it as your career moves along.
4) Your Rates Were Too High
It is not an easy feat to become qualified as an expert in any field. As such, all experts should price their services accordingly with rates that commensurate with their experience and level of expertise. Sometimes, however, through no fault of the expert, a firm’s budget simply cannot afford to retain them.
Most law firm budgets—particularly those of smaller firms—are not limitless. Sometimes, tough decisions need to be made when balancing the need for the most qualified expert with their expense. However, it is always wise to evaluate your fees to ensure that they are fair and reasonable to both sides.
5) You Are Not Local
Like an expert’s fees, attorneys must consider supplemental expenses when choosing an expert. Sometimes, a budget simply cannot afford to pay for an expert’s travel and accommodation expenses. In which case, a local expert may be chosen simply for their proximity and lesser costs. The increase in virtual consultations following the COVID-19 pandemic has largely removed this concern for the time being. However, that doesn’t mean remote and virtual consultations will endure as the primary means of expert-attorney communication down the line.
6) You Do Not Have the Right Experience
You may be educated and experienced in your field but nonetheless, you still may not possess the exact experience an attorney is looking for. Because the issues of a case that hinge on expert testimony may be very specific, an expert’s expertise should be just as precise. For example, an expert in neurology may be able to speak to different medical nuances or standards of care than a neurosurgeon. Also, some attorneys look for the greatest amount of experience in terms of years. This means a 20-year professional may be turned down for a 30-40 year one.
7) You Did Not Support the Attorney’s Case Theory
Once you pass the preliminary stages of qualifications, fees, and locales, you should look at the substantive facts with the attorney to determine how you can actually help their case. Sometimes, you simply cannot be of assistance.
An attorney’s case theory is their strategy for winning. If, in your expert opinion, their theory is scientifically or professionally baseless, it’s almost certain that the attorney won’t retain you. While there are many issues on which reasonable minds can disagree, your professional integrity and credibility as an expert dictate that you never adopt an opinion that isn’t completely your own.
8) Your Publication History Conflicts with the Case Theory
As a professional continues in their career, their opinions on certain topics may change as they gain more experience. Although this is perfectly natural, you’ll want to make sure that any publicly stated opinions—such as those documented in a research publication or during testimony in another case—do not conflict with your current view. Even if you fully support and believe in an attorney’s case theory, any history to the contrary can be used against you by opposing counsel. In which case, an attorney may select another expert who does not pose such conflicts.
9) You Were Impolite
Ask any interviewer and they will certainly tell you that manners matter. There are countless ways in which someone can be swayed by a person’s demeanor, communication skills, and non-verbal cues. Like any professional, working relationship, attorneys want experts that are easy to work with. And sometimes, this is above and beyond their qualifications. If an expert does not approach a potential client in a courteous, communicative manner, that will be viewed as a red flag. Being professional and possessing proper etiquette can go a long way.
10) The Attorney Dropped the Case
There are many instances in which an attorney chooses not to keep a case. Especially with cases that require expert testimony, such as a medical malpractice lawsuit. An attorney may discover, upon speaking with several experts or engaging in research, that the case is either meritless or perhaps not worth the gamble.
Qualified and experienced experts in a variety of fields are always needed in the legal realm. If you possess the necessary level of expertise and are interested in working on legal matters, consider the above pitfalls to maximize your chances of being retained.