IN AN EXPERT, PASSION EQUALS CREDIBILITY

Think you will agree with the following thoughts, excerpted from an article by Robert Ambrogi with IMS Expert Services, tagged “Tips From The Trenches”:

Credibility is a key attitude in an expert witness.  But how do you gauge a potential expert’s credibility?  What attributes provide the best predictors of how an expert will measure up in the eyes of a jury?

For Chicago attorney Andrew R. McGaan, a lawyer who has tried and won jury and non-jury cases throughout the United States, experience has taught him to look for something other than what he was taught as a young lawyer.

Conventional wisdom teaches lawyers to look for well-credentialed experts with degrees from prestigious schools, honors in their field and experience testifying.  That wisdom carries kernels of truth, McGaan says, but credentials is not at the top of his list.

“Credibility comes first and foremost from having an expert with direct experience in exactly the same problem as you are dealing with in the courtroom”, he explains.

But hands-on experience is only half of the equation.  The other trait McGaan looks for in an expert is passion about his or her work.  “If they have an innate passion for what they do, that comes through in their ability to explain the field to everyday people on the jury who have no background in it and probably don’t care about it”

McGaan draws an analogy to hiring a plumber for your home.  “When a plumber comes to your home for the first time, you can quickly tell if he’s done this work before and if he has a passion for getting it right.”

Jurors look for similar qualities in a trial witness.  “The jurors know that the spotlight is on them,” McGaan explains.  “They look at every witness with the same question, ‘Are you someone who is going to help me sort through this problem or not?’”

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