7 Things Every Attorney Should Know About Working with Experts Off the Stand

Christine Funk

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— Updated on June 25, 2020

7 Things Every Attorney Should Know About Working with Experts Off the Stand

Working With Experts Off The Stand

If you’ve never hired an expert before, or if you don’t work with experts regularly, there are some things about working with experts that may not have occurred to you yet. Often times, lawyers find themselves so overwhelmed by the subject matter the expert will be testifying about, they forget about some of the finer details of working with experts before they take the stand and once they get off. Below are 7 things experts value most when working with lawyers.

1) Let them do their job

When you first contact an expert witness, presumably you will have some idea of their background and experience. You also have a command of the facts in your case. Calling an expert and beginning the conversation along the lines of, “I need you to testify *insert desired expert opinion here*” will not endear you to the expert. While there may be some people willing to hold themselves out as experts and testify to whatever a lawyer wishes, these are few and far between. Most experts won’t agree to testify to a given conclusion without a careful review of all the facts – and not just the facts as the lawyer recites them to be. By starting your conversation with the expert instead along the lines of, “I have a case where I think your expertise might shed some insight. Would you be available to review. . . ?”, you are letting your expert know from the beginning you respect their expertise.

2) Ask about extra reading

While an expert is an excellent resource for you, don’t expect them to teach you everything you need to know. It is far more cost effective for you to take some time to learn about the discipline yourself. Ask your expert if they have suggested reading on the subject at hand. Most experts can point you to several sources of information. Once you’ve read more about the topic, your questions will be far more intelligent.

3) Don’t just put the expert anywhere

If your expert is staying the night, don’t just put them up anywhere. Take some time to consider a few different options. Do you want them close to the courthouse? Close to your office? Of the choices for hotels close to where you’d like them to stay, consider the fact your expert is human. If you have a choice between a hotel that has a restaurant and one that doesn’t, for example, choosing the one with the restaurant offers the expert a more comfortable stay. Consider whether there are restaurants, liquor stores, grocery stores, and drug stores within walking distance. One only need spend a few days in a hotel in an industrial park to understand how important hotel location is.

If you have no choice but to put an expert up in a place without ready access to creature comforts, inquire about preferences. Particularly if they are getting in late, consider leaving a care package at the hotel. Attention to details will make for a productive relationship between you and your expert throughout the duration of the case.

4) Be considerate about flights

If you are booking your expert’s flight, take the time to consult them first. While it may be cheaper to book a connecting flight, a direct flight will be far less exhausting and significantly less time consuming for your experts. Additionally, connecting flights come with twice as many opportunities for weather delays, mechanical problems, and the like. Don’t book flights that get in after 6 pm unless the expert prefers a late flight. If an early flight is cancelled, experts can often book a later flight that same day. When a late flight gets cancelled, they may be required to take the red eye, or an early morning flight followed immediately by testimony, which is less than optimal.

5) Be aware of individual concerns

While it may make no difference to the lawyer whether court runs late Friday night, it may matter a great deal to an expert. Take a moment to ask if your expert has religious obligations, food restrictions, or other individual concerns that you should be aware of. Many will not have any concerns, but it is a good idea to inquire ahead of time. Particularly if your expert will be staying in town for an extended period, selecting a hotel near their preferred place of worship may be appreciated.

6) Consider the details

Is your expert a Marriott Rewards member? Do they prefer to fly United Airlines? Do they belong to a gym that has franchises in your city that they could attend? When booking travel, ask the expert if they have preferences.  Most of the time, the difference between the cost of one hotel chain versus another is negligible. By paying attention to such small details, you are letting the expert know you value them.

7) Pay them promptly

When an expert fronts costs, make certain to provide them with a reimbursement form as soon as possible. Ideally, you will have it to them by the time their plane lands back in their hometown. When you receive the bill, make certain to pay it promptly.

It’s a Small Sandbox

Maya Angelou said it best when she said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” When you make sure your expert feels valued, they will remember how much they enjoyed working with you. This, in turn, makes them more likely to want to work with you again.

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