Are Expert Witness Directories on the Decline?

Dani Alexis Ryskamp, J.D.

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— Updated on April 28, 2020

Are Expert Witness Directories on the Decline?

Expert witness directories were once considered state of the art sources for expert witness information. Today, however, the influx of data-driven resources and advances in litigation technology have directly diminished the once-held value of expert witness directories.

In particular, specialized expert witness research and consulting services have revealed the lack of information depth and analysis that can be performed by an expert witness directory. To be your clients’ best advocate and build the strongest possible cases, it’s time to engage more sophisticated expert witness search methods and do away with legacy directories.

Some Assembly Required

When it comes to recruiting an expert witness, attorneys using expert witness directories still must put in a great deal of work on their end. Time must be devoted to searching through directory entries for available experts. Each expert must then be contacted to assess their availability and rates. Finally, a firm must perform conflict checks before choosing to retain. If an expert witness relationship doesn’t work out for any reason, the exhaustive process begins again.

Witness For Hire

Expert witness directories are also “opt-in” for expert witnesses. This means experts pay to be listed, making inclusion in a directory cost-effective only for those who do regular expert work. These “professional experts” also invite challenges from opposing counsel. Commonly referred to as “hired guns”, these experts are often accused of lacking impartiality given their professional practice as an expert witness. The perception of a hired gun can be detrimental to an expert’s credibility. Has this expert given their truthful professional assessment to the case, or have they told counsel what they want to hear in order to secure another paycheck?

Those who professionally serve as expert witnesses also lack the benefits of actively practicing in their field. These experts may not have the time to dedicate to research, teaching, or other activities. This can sacrifice how relevant and current their expertise is and ultimately impact how valuable that makes their testimony.

Many well-qualified experts are working, researching, or teaching full-time in their fields and may not have legal consultation on their radar. They’re often the most qualified expert witnesses, yet it’s unlikely they will be listed in any expert witness directory. These leaders in their respective industries may not have any ties to the legal field or are reticent to collaborate on just any legal matter. As seasoned professionals in their industry, these experts would be invaluable assets to any case, especially for their active knowledge in their fields. Those who teach full time in their fields are well-versed in explaining their work to non-expert audiences as well. This makes them more effective teachers for conveying complex subject matter to the jury. Attorneys who limit their search to expert witness directories deprive themselves of the opportunity to work with this class of highly qualified witnesses.

The Value of Data-Driven Custom Recruiting

The process of custom expert witness recruiting uses both data-driven research and holistic expert evaluation to connect attorneys with experts who are uniquely qualified to opine their cases. Guided by a case’s liability, causation, and damages, expert recruiters are able to provide more accurate matches between expert and subject matter. Custom recruiting also yields expert witnesses who do not advertise their services. They may not even think of themselves as “expert witnesses” until an opportunity is presented by a recruiter to explore a topic within their professional scope by means of litigation.

Custom recruiting services rely on research and data analysis to examine the qualifications of various experts. This allows for thorough vetting of past litigation experience, review of published or peer-reviewed work, and compliance with specific states’ mandates for expert qualification. In their Expert Search service, Expert Institute uses aggregated data to directly compare experts on factors related to the case at hand. This could include such metrics as how many times they have performed a procedure or experiment, their success rate, reviews by clients, students and patients, and other key data points. These factors are used to focus on experts who not only excel in their field but who will also succeed at explaining complex topics in a clear, concise way to a fact-finder.

Custom recruiting expert witnesses is in high demand by the nation’s most prestigious law firms. These are firms handling high profile cases where retaining the right expert can make an immense impact in the outcome of a trial or settlement. Top attorneys are quickly adopting the data and intelligence-backed route of expert witness recruiting over outdated directories and value the increased accuracy and caliber of these custom-sourced experts.

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