Expert Reports: Techniques for Documenting Your Credentials

When an attorney retains an expert on a case, the expert’s opinion typically will culminate in an expert report.

Anjelica Cappellino, J.D.

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— Updated on August 25, 2021

Expert Reports: Techniques for Documenting Your Credentials

Rule 26(a)(2)(B) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandates disclosure of the expert report to opposing counsel. The report summarizes the expert’s opinions and includes the facts on which the expert relied. Additionally, the report consists of the expert’s qualifications and credentials, among other items. Although Rule 26 governs expert reports in federal courts, similar rules apply in at least 35 state jurisdictions as well. Opposing counsel may use the report to challenge your credibility as an expert or your opinion’s reliability. As such, it’s important to thoroughly document your qualifications. If you’re an expert drafting a report, it is wise to include the following credentials so your expertise is front and center.

Education

Your report should state your formal educational background and degrees, especially in areas that require certain degrees before practicing. But as the saying goes, education is a lifelong journey that does not end at graduation. If you have taken additional coursework or continuing education classes, be sure to highlight them in your expert report. This shows your professional engagement and willingness to stay up-to-date in your practice area. Don’t forget to spell out the techniques, practices, and skills you acquired in each of these degrees and/or courses. Make sure to explain how these skills relate to the issues at hand in a case to tie it all together.

Certifications & Licenses

If your profession requires a license or certification to practice, then your report should clearly indicate these credentials. Most importantly, it should state that they are up-to-date and in active status. You should also list the dates the licenses were activated and renewed. Some professionals do not obtain or renew their requisite licenses if they are not actively practicing or retired. Nevertheless, it always looks better when an expert’s necessary licenses are all in good standing.

Research Conducted

An expert’s methodology in reaching and supporting their opinion can be just as important as the opinion itself. Many courts look at whether your technique or theory can be tested and assessed for reliability. Courts look favorably on opinions that are based on an expert’s previous research on the subject. Additionally, generally accepted findings within your scientific community help strengthen your opinion. It’s also important for your methodology to cite the techniques you used. For example, if you’re an expert conducting an analysis or an inspection, be sure to note the techniques used.

Medical Procedures

For medical experts, educational background and academic work paint only part of the picture of your qualifications. On-the-job experiences are undoubtedly important in forming the foundation of any medical opinion. An example of this experience is conducting the medical procedures or surgeries that the expert discussed in an opinion. The number, type, or complexity of past procedures conducted can be a useful addition to a medical expert report.

Projects

A person may qualify as an expert based on knowledge, skill, experience, and training. As such, it’s useful to highlight any projects or ventures that you may have taken on in your field. Some experts may simply state their work title or position. However, going into specifics, like the day-to-day work you do, helps provide a greater understanding of your work experience. This may include pro bono work, volunteering, or other accomplished assignments that have been part of your profession.

Publications

Having one’s professional work or opinion published is an accomplishment, even more so when it is a peer-reviewed publication. Whether an expert’s publication is peer-reviewed is a factor judges may consider when determining the admissibility of an opinion. Regardless of the jurisdiction’s evidentiary standard, a peer-reviewed publication is something judges may take into account when determining the weight of your testimony.

Awards

An expert’s report is no time to be bashful. If you have won awards or other prestigious honors in the scope of your career, a report should include them.

Speaking Engagements

The importance of speaking engagements is two-fold. They show that an expert is not just knowledgeable enough to educate others, but also that they possess oratory and communication skills. These are qualities that inherently bolster the credibility of an expert witness. Highlight any speaking engagements you’ve had that specifically touched on topics related to the case.

Years of Experience

Prominently feature your total number of years of industry or practicing experience in your expert report. Although quality of experience is more important than a mere number of years, the timeframe of someone’s practice can affect the weight of their testimony. It’s especially important if you’re working on a case in a jurisdiction that mandates experts work in a particular field for a certain amount of time.

Don’t Forget Relevance

Overall, the purpose of outlining your credentials in an expert report is to demonstrate your qualifications to testify as to the specific issues at hand. A report provides your expert opinion, along with the facts, data, and methodologies on which your opinion is based on. Thus, it is important to show that your credentials are a direct asset to your ability to render a reliable opinion that is relevant to the case’s issues.

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