The criteria to select an expert witness

The key issues to consider when considering an expert witness are:

  • Conflict: an Expert witness cannot have a conflict of interest with either interested parties. Also ensure that he is available for your case before introducing any detail.

  • Competence: is the expert really qualified in the area? Like all consultants, some less reputable experts may be tempted to extend the limit of their knowledge. Here's how to qualify an expert witness.

  • Credibility: is the expert credible by his background or his knowledge of the facts? Credibility is probably the most important factor in picking your expert. Qualifications do matter, in court probably more than anywhere else. While the experience an expert brings is valuable to understand the case, his professional pedigree and prestige will also influence the psyche of the jury/panel. At the other end, any expert with a high opinion of himself will be irritating to his listeners.

  • Communication: you want your expert to have gravitas. Unfortunately, intelligent people are not always great at communicating thoughts to a lay person. An outstanding resume is not nearly enough. Often, the deciding factor in selecting an expert is how he will present to a finder of fact. Personality is important, including the perception of impartiality and objectivity.

  • Court experience: a first-timer may be a risk, especially on the stress of a cross-examination, but a polished expert has its drawbacks too. Juries may not like somebody who is a recurrent "hired gun". Worse, because of multiple previous testimonies, your expert may be tarnished by an opposing case. There is a sweet spot to find. Some expert with little testimony experience are naturally great at explaining or convincing a jury and do very well on the stand. 

  • Continuity: make sure that your expert is willing to see the case through the end, or that he is has affiliations with groups who will take the case over if needed. Does the expert have a team to support him if the workload increases?

Deposition  

Now, like for all hire or contractual agreement, do your homework.

  • Investigate your expert, starting by requesting reports and publications: your opposite party will surely do it, so don't forget to do it first. Ask for references and call them. The last thing you want is discover in court that your expert has some 'baggage'.

  • Meet or interview the expert in person: What to look for and how during the interview. His demeanor and appearance are extremely important. Is he shy, nervous, arrogant? Confidence and professionalism are required in court, so does he show it in your conversation? How prepared is he for the meeting? Is he energetic and enthusiastic? How well does he answer tough questions? Like for all interviews, preparation and techniques are valuable.

References