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Evolving Expectations: What Attorneys Look For in an Expert

July 26, 2012

With the legal environment’s increasing use of technology and access to information, the pressure on expert witness testimony has increased as well. Attorneys look for key attributes when hiring an expert, and for many cases that now involve interrelated issues requiring one or multiple specific expertise, there can be multiple experts hired by one counsel.
With expert witnesses in high demand, what gives them an edge over another expert with similar qualifications in the same or related field?

George Goodman, a partner with Cummins, Goodman, and Denley & Vickers stresses the latter skill as being extremely important in determining an expert witness’s viability.

“I’ll pay more for [an expert witness] that is not just knowledgeable, but is a communicator,” Goodman said. “If he’s reasonable in his answers, persuasive, and a good communicator, that’s who I want on the stand. Many experts don’t have that quality. It’s a rare talent.”

Education and experience can support an expert’s opinion to add reliability, however experts are often brought into trial to persuade the jury of a certain point, and attorney’s are finding that these skills in communication are non-negotiable. An expert using complex theories or knowledge not expected among a common jury must be able to explain his or her findings clearly so that they are not lost among the jurors.

An expert’s modest showing of confidence is an indicator to a juror that he or she knows the correct “answer” but does not annoy or condescend the jurors with a robust showing of confidence. It is a delicate line that attorneys look for when looking to hire an expert.

“The lawyer, the law firm hires this witness and we control him,” Goodman said. “There’s no room for surprises when they take the stand. Attorney and witness are fully versed, fully rehearsed, and ready for what the opposition is going to throw at you to try to discredit the witness.”

Attorneys can find a useful professional history of experts on Courtroom Insight, complete with reviews of experts that help document an expert’s performance on the stand or in deposition.

Start your search for an expert witness in your desired field or location now! Or, write a review for an expert you’ve worked with in the past to let your colleagues know what impact the expert can make in their next case!


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