Any potential experts can make the job easier—and increase the likelihood that they will be retained—by providing helpful case feedback. At Expert Institute, we work with thousands of attorneys, handling thousands of cases at any given time that will need the services of an expert. Before an expert is retained, we share the relevant fact patterns of the case via Expert iQ. This is when prospective experts can provide their initial thoughts and feedback to the attorney. The hiring attorney then uses these responses to determine whether an expert fits their case. Because these initial responses can hold so much weight, it’s important, as an expert, to ensure the feedback is both clear and comprehensive. Below are a few tips for experts seeking to strengthen their written case feedback responses.
Be Brief But Substantive
The most important aspect of an expert’s job is to interpret whatever scientific or specialized information is before them into an easily palatable explanation to attorneys and fact finders. When providing feedback, experts should strive to provide substantive information in their responses so that the attorneys recognize their knowledge base and understanding of the material. This does not mean experts should respond with reams of complex data or scientific terminology. Rather, they should try to boil down the major issues into brief, easy-to-understand explanations. As this will be the attorney’s introduction to the expert, it is important to showcase one’s understanding of the topic and their ability to parse it down effectively. It also shows an expert’s interest and willingness to engage beyond a quick, boilerplate response.
Highlight Why You’re a Great Candidate
An expert’s resumé should speak to their qualifications and educational background. So just like a cover letter should not regurgitate the information contained in one’s resumé, written feedback should not rely too heavily on one’s general qualifications. An effective case feedback response should not focus solely on the expert’s overall knowledge base or experience. Instead, it should highlight the expert’s unique characteristics and ability to handle this particular case. For example, an expert can elaborate on their past experiences with the specific issue at hand, including their outcomes (i.e., “I’ve seen this particular issue come up in the past on numerous times in the past year, and for the majority of cases, I’ve found that XYZ.”).
Offer Your Initial Opinion of the Facts
It is understandable if an expert does not want to put their opinions in writing without reviewing the entirety of the case file or conducting whatever necessary tests or studies are needed to render a full opinion. However, by offering one’s initial judgment of a case, the attorney will have a better idea as to whether or not to retain the expert. Although experts should always be clear that their opinion is merely cursory and that they would need additional facts to formulate a fully developed opinion, it helps provide the attorney with more insight as to how the expert will look at a case once retained. This is especially important in order to flag potential experts that offer opinions completely contradictory to the case theory.
Don’t Forget Demeanor
Another important (but oftentimes underestimated) aspect of an expert is their demeanor and communication skills. Whether testifying at trial or working behind the scenes as a consultant, no one wants an expert who is not adept at communicating, and even worse, one who has an unlikeable demeanor. Of course, there is only so much that a brief written response can convey, but at the same time, it does not take much to convey a poor demeanor. An expert can be the most qualified in their field, but if they are unable to communicate that knowledge effectively, or if their whole personality indicates a lack of trustworthiness, then their opinions are moot.
When crafting written feedback, experts should be mindful of how they are explaining their opinions, such as by avoiding scientific terminology or confusing jargon. In addition, the writing should be clear, concise, and well-written. If a response lacks cohesiveness or basic writing skills, it is easy to draw negative assumptions about the expert’s ability to communicate as a whole.
Experts should also keep in mind the importance of basic writing etiquette. This can be accomplished simply by providing a friendly introduction, up-to-date contact information, and leaving off on a positive note (i.e., “I am very interested and I’d love to discuss this case further.”). Overall, these small gestures help an expert differentiate themselves from the competition while also indicating their willingness and ability to take on a case.
The search for the right expert is an important aspect of litigation and by providing effective written feedback to an attorney, an expert can put their best foot forward and increase their chances of being retained.