Off the beaten path: Identifying and preparing novice expert witnesses

By Megan Demshki

This is an excerpt from an article originally published in the July/August 2020 issue of the CAOC’s Forum magazine.

Does your matter present a unique issue, whether it be on liability or damages, that would benefit from retained expert testimony? Have you never worked with an expert in that area of expertise before? Are you simply looking to mix things up with a new expert?

While we often instinctively turn to our peers or a listserv to locate a tried-and-true expert witness, sometimes a first-timer to the world of expert testimony can provide your matter with qualified testimony and a fresh perspective, often at a reduced cost to your client.


Where do I look for a new expert?

1. Think Local
We all know that when it comes to expert testimony, credibility is everything. Perhaps an expert local to the jurisdiction will provide both unique expertise to the region and increased credibility based on local involvement that will help build credibility with local jurors. Instead of a juror wondering why you incurred additional costs and flew out an expert from another region, theymay find it comforting to know that this expert is locally grown.

2. Leaders – Current or Retired
If you’re looking for an expert in a field where there may be fewer routine expert witnesses, I often go to the leaders of trade organizations to see if they may be interested in serving as an expert witness or if anyone comes to mind. As leaders in their field, they may assist you in identifying uniquely qualified or particularly revered members of the trade. Additionally, they can assist you in ensuring that the potential new expert witness has the proper background, training, and experience to testify in the area you need.

3. Trade magazines and publications
Go to the source itself. Whether you happened upon the perfect, on-point article in a trade magazine or found a whole book on the relevant issue, give the author a call or shoot them an email. As a published author, they may be interested in putting their research and knowledge to further use as an expert witness. Plus, you already know they are willing to put forward a position on the topic!

4. Pick up the phone
Know someone experienced in the relevant field from that nonprofit board you serve on or the networking group you are a part of? Pick up the phone and give them a call. Pick their brain about who would be a great fit as an expert witness. They may be able to introduce you to the perfect candidate and shed light on any potential credibility issues or reputation.

5. Google
When all else fails, Google your dream candidate. While this may just be the beginning of your research on an expert candidate, it may help you find a relevant author, LinkedIn profile, or company web site that can begin to open doors to the perfect expert.

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