When to Hire a Local Expert Versus a Nationally-Recognized Expert

Edward Maggio, J.D., M.S.

Written by
— Updated on May 4, 2020

When to Hire a Local Expert Versus a Nationally-Recognized Expert

Selecting an expert witness is no easy task for an attorney. An expert’s expertise, education, experience, and fees are all important factors to consider in preparing a case. However, there are also more niche factors of expert selection that require careful consideration. When choosing to retain either a local or nationally recognized expert witness, it’s crucial to consider your case matter and location.

A local expert can impart innate authority and trust from the jury when offering opinions on a community issue. But a nationally regarded expert may speak to cutting edge theory and advancements in their field for higher-stakes litigation. An understanding of how geography, case jurisdiction, and cost factors can impact an expert’s efficacy can help fine-tune future expert witness selection.

When Trying State Court Cases

In the pretrial stages, it is necessary to take a step back and analyze the setting of the case. In a state court setting, a lawsuit may be best served by an expert witness associated with institutions in that state. This in-state authority can give their testimony greater weight in the eyes of the jury.

Another key advantage of staying local for an expert is that they may already know nuanced state laws and courtroom procedures. This can yield expert testimony that is less prone to challenges by opposing counsel. This also cuts down on preparation time and costs. A local expert can make immense impact before a jury for their knowledge of regionally relevant details of a case and regulations within a state’s jurisdiction.

Cultural Considerations

People often find a sense of pride in their hometown, and this extends to the jury box. For cases addressing regional events, it’s important to consider the civic connections a jury may feel to their home and their community. Attorneys should not overlook the traits of an expert that could intrinsically alienate a local jury. For example, an expert with a thick New England accent may not be well regarded in a Southern courtroom. Jurors at a state level are able to more readily trust the testimony of someone a bit closer to home. Local experts may also speak to unique regional details and customs within a case. Despite the glowing credentials of an out-of-towner, a jury may respond more favorably to an expert witness already familiar to their community.

When Trying Federal Court Cases

In major federal cases, such as large scale mass tort matters, the most technically qualified experts—regardless of location—are often the best choice. The large damages values being evaluated in federal cases requires both parties to seek out the country’s most adept experts. These are experts who are nationally recognized in their fields. Their location becomes irrelevant in these cases given the massive potential damages at stake. Excellent education and experience credentials for top tier experts can also impact their fee schedules. They are likely to be some of the more expensive witnesses to retain for their services. However, the extra costs are important aspects to consider for the impact of testimony in the courtroom.

Cost Considerations

Simply put, distance equals cost when selecting an expert witness. From a logistical standpoint, the further away an expert witness lives and works, the more their fees will be. This includes higher fees for their review of evidence or other documents and for their testimony in court. Costs for travel and accommodations will also increase the farther an expert must travel. This tradeoff must be carefully considered when evaluating location versus credentials of an expert witness.

When preparing for court, working with an expert who is far away can also present a host of organizational and logistical difficulties. Large geographical differences are often accompanied by time zone differences. When selecting an expert, it’s critical to consider the simpler, but logistically burdensome aspects in preparing a case with a non local expert witness.

But beyond expert fees and travel logistics for court appearances, the ultimate goal of retaining an expert witness is to set up your argument for success and most effectively advocate for your client.  For major class action lawsuits or mass tort matters, these implicate potentially thousands of clients with enormous settlement amounts on the line. In this setting, an expert witness can offer case winning—or losing—testimony that can trigger life-altering consequences. In these scenarios, costs and geography should be tossed aside and priority given to the most technically qualified expert witness for the case.

Weighing your Options

Expert witness selection is, by nature, a bespoke process. Every case presents unique requirements and challenges, and this extends to finding the right expert. Expert witness search services can relieve some of the burden associated with expert recruitment, but the final choice will always come down to the attorney. On a case by case basis, firms must decide how an expert may align with their litigation strategy. It’s up to the astute attorney to determine when a case calls for hometown pride or top-shelf credentials.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

I am an