5 Reasons Why You Need to Ditch DIY Expert Witness Searches

Carolyn Casey, J.D.

Written by
— Updated on June 25, 2020

5 Reasons Why You Need to Ditch DIY Expert Witness Searches

5 Reasons Why You Need to Ditch DIY Expert Witness Searches

Lawyers from the school-of-self-reliance tend to conduct their own expert witness searches. They figure they know what they need in an expert better than anyone else. However, our recent study shows nearly half of lawyers are ditching the do-it-yourself (DIY) model for an expert witness referral service.

With the current DIY-rage— where experts show us how to build backyard decks and later fix the kitchen sink—why are lawyers shunning DIY expert searches? For one, lawyers are getting overwhelmed. Our research shows 32% of attorneys surveyed expect their expert witness usage to increase over the next 1-2 years. With more and more cases hinging on highly technical issues, lawyers are realizing they don’t have the time or resources to effectively find the perfect expert to help them win each case.

Here are 5 reasons why lawyers are turning to expert witness services.

1) Wouldn’t You Rather Focus on Case Strategy?

Effective searches and expert candidate evaluations are extremely time-consuming, to say the least. Researching, locating, contacting, and vetting candidates takes hours of diligent work. We’ve seen lawyers spend days on a single expert search and still not find the expert they need. That’s days of lost time that could have been spent on case strategy—not a happy place when managing court deadlines and anxious clients.

What if you delegated the “search and vet” task to an organization staffed with professionals that do this day in and day out? The trend is for lawyers to give expert witness services very specific criteria and rely on them to do the legwork and come back with a pool of excellent candidates. This way, lawyers can focus energies on case strategy and leave search and vet to the experts, so to speak.

2) Access to More Qualified Experts

Counsel frequently needs to quickly find highly specialized experts in a dizzying array of medical, financial, engineering, technology, construction or other complex disciplines. But rapidly finding the perfect expert to help with case strategy and possibly testimony is no cakewalk.

Sure, you can send out a firmwide email, try your hand at online searches, and ask your peers for recommendations. Or, you could call up the same experts you’ve used in countless cases. But are you confident they are on top of the latest advances and can hit it out of the park for you in this specialized area?

Increasingly, busy litigators are relying on expert witness referral services that are experts in custom recruiting top-notch industry professionals to consult and testify. It’s highly likely you’ll find the best expert in any discipline by leveraging a service like Expert Institute that maintains relationships with hospitals, research facilities, universities, and more across the country. With an extensive network plus search and vetting prowess, they are efficient expert sourcing machines. And even better—you’ll have an expert that checks all the boxes in a matter of days without having to lift a finger to finger.

3) You Need a Teacher, Not Just an Expert

In the movie, Philadelphia, a trial lawyer (Denzel Washington), asks his client to tell him the story as if he were a 2-year-old. It was his way of gauging whether the client’s situation could be simply communicated to a jury. Finding an expert who can talk about complicated issues in a way that non-expert jurors can understand is everything.

The last thing you need is an expert so fascinated with their field’s intricacies and acronyms that their testimony sounds like gibberish to the jury. You want an expert who is not only very knowledgeable but can also communicate technical concepts to a jury in simple terms.  Now, if you are a DIY fan, you may find a professor or consultant who has an unbelievable CV. But how will you evaluate their communication skills? Expert witness services vet for communication skills and have data from clients on their experts’ ability to reach juries.

4) Retain Witnesses That Are Easy To Work With

Sometimes you think you’ve found the dream expert—highly respected and with impeccable credentials. Then your bubble is popped when you try to schedule prep time and the expert balks, “I am an expert in this specialty and don’t need preparation.” The risks of the “know-it-all” experts are huge. A whiff of unfamiliarity with case facts can torpedo credibility and case success.

Just ask the wrongful death plaintiff in Madden v. United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The ABA reports this judge found Madden’s medical expert testimony was not credible because they lacked familiarity with the relevant medical records.

Working with a difficult expert presents frustrations at every turn of the case. But the only way to know if you’re going to have a pleasant working relationship with your expert is if you get to know them before deciding to retain them. After all, you wouldn’t hire someone without interviewing them first, right? Attorneys who use the Expert Institute receive complimentary conference calls with multiple expert candidates before they select a witness to make sure they’re secure in the working relationship they’ll have with that expert.

5) Check Your Expert’s Background Before It Bites You

Any skeletons your expert’s closet have the potential to surface in court with disastrous outcomes. DIY-attorneys don’t always dig deep enough to discover things like fake credentials, criminal charges or professional sanctions levied against the expert witness or consultant. Opposing counsel will make mincemeat of your expert’s credibility with this ammunition.

Do not expect candidates to volunteer negative information about themselves—they are trying to win your business. The professionals at well-established expert witness service are hawks on uncovering any unsavory information before it bites you.

Time to Ditch DIY Expert Searches?

If it’s time for you to ditch the DIY model, you can learn more here about how to leverage an expert witness service.

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