It was in the quaint court room of a small North Carolina county seat some 30 years ago that an attorney pointed to me and strongly declared to the judge, “my expert tells me…”.  As an officer an insurance company that was involved in a complicated lawsuit, I had been sent to help unravel some of the insurance terminology, procedures, etc.  My somewhat modest personality was startled when, for the first time, I was referred to as an “expert”!

Based on my intervening experience, may I suggest some things you need to look for in an expert witness, and ways to improve your relationship with this type consultant.

When you need an expert in a specific field, don’t hesitate to inquire of colleagues, or even attorneys from another firm.  Check with persons in that particular field and with their trade associations.  Many would-be experts have other jobs or responsibilities and don’t put much emphasis on advertising.  Request information and check with attorneys with whom the expert has worked.  The use of the several expert witness contact firms is fine, but naturally adds substantial cost to the process.  Words of appreciation from so many attorneys have convinced me that experts (or simply consultants) can be of great help to you.  Don’t give up the search process easily.

On the issue of qualifications, you should pay attention to professional designations and interaction with industry personnel.  Involvement in seminars and articles published can be an indication of communication skills.  Even a well qualified, experienced person in a particular field cannot be expected to have “all of the answers” on the tip of their tongue.  Beware of a potential expert who seems to “know all there is to know” about any field of business.

You should consider the scope of the expert’s experience in their particular field.  Some people never move outside one section of an industry during their entire career. For example, a very good insurance agent may have little knowledge of the internal operation of an insurance company, or the expectations of its personnel.  There is a vast difference in having 25 years experience in a field and having one year’s experience 25 times.

The initial thought process of an expert grasping the problem can be significant.  Even though all the answers may not immediately come from an expert (and beware if they do), the potential expert should have a good grasp of the questions, i.e. area’s where opinions are needed.


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Note: Information in these blogs is not intended to replace any legal or financial professional information.


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