Understanding the Hired Gun Bias and How Experts Can Avoid It

In gaining consulting experience as an expert witness, it’s imperative to avoid being pegged as a “hired gun.” In legal circles, a hired gun describes an expert witness who comes across as biased towards the argument of the attorney who hired them.

Carolyn Casey, J.D.

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— Updated on June 15, 2022

Understanding the Hired Gun Bias and How Experts Can Avoid It

Testimony from a hired gun will sound tilted toward their client’s case rather than a neutral explanation of a complicated issue the trier of fact is trying to understand—the intended purpose of expert testimony. A hired gun’s testimony may be ignored by the jury for its obvious bias or even dismissed under a challenge from opposing counsel.

Developing a reputation as a hired gun can seriously undermine an expert’s credibility and future in legal consulting. In court, a suspected hired gun will undoubtedly be questioned on pay rates, court appearances, and case review frequency. Once tagged with the hired gun label, expert credibility is quickly tainted. But to avoid this pitfall and maintain an excellent expert profile, there are a number of areas to consider. In this article, we’ll explore the factors that contribute to the perception as a hired gun and discuss strategies for maintaining a respected expert witness reputation.

Avoid Over-Promotion

It is never wise to take a scattershot marketing approach in advertising your expert services. Placing ads and listing yourself in every public expert witness directory available can quickly erode your image. Consider your advertising from an attorney’s point of view. If attorneys see your profile popping up in every directory, they may get the idea that you are desperate for business and not the most qualified candidate. Given concerns of the hired gun perception, you’ll likely see diminishing returns from over advertising your expert services on every available platform.

Be Selective

It’s important to remember you’re retained as an expert consultant or witness because of your expertise and experience. The very best experts are actively practicing or conducting research in their field while taking the occasional consulting opportunity as an expert witness. If you take on 20+ cases a year, for instance, it will appear that expert consulting is your full-time job. This can potentially hurt your credibility as an expert who is on top of the latest knowledge in your field from having continuous professional experience.

Many successful expert witnesses are also engaged in research projects or management roles, giving them continuous insights within their field. But the addition of numerous consulting jobs on top of a full-time role can eventually impact the quality of service. It’s crucial to remain aware of the demand for your time and effort—and the sustainability of all your professional spinning plates.

Opinions Not For Sale

Did you know that your litigation history becomes public record? If you’re supporting case theories that you don’t agree with just for the paycheck, you’ll likely see negative fallout from these practices. Not to mention transparently biased testimony could end up being excluded following a challenge from the opposition—all of which will show up in the permanent records of the case.

Your chances for great consulting opportunities can become diminished based on your record. Potential clients look specifically into your litigation history, plus the Bar and other professional organizations frequently compare notes. If you are seen as compromising your expertise to suit clients and win lucrative expert service contracts, word will get around. As a result, potential new clients will steer clear of hiring an expert with a questionable consulting record.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

No amount of money is worth eroding your reputation and becoming tagged as a hired gun. A great way to avoid some of the pitfalls described above is to work with a service like Expert Institute. Expert Institute works with the country’s top litigators to source the most qualified experts for all types of litigation. As an Expert Institute expert, your credentials and experience are always on hand for when the right case comes to our research team. By working with Expert Institute, you can be selective about the cases you take and be confident your services will be connected with the cases where your expertise will make the greatest impact.

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