The Importance of Choosing the Right Expert Witness


Selecting the right expert witness can make or break your case. As an attorney, you want to find someone highly qualified who can explain complicated topics in a way that jurors will understand. Let’s explore some tips on choosing the best expert for your case.

Look at Their Credentials

First, examine the expert’s credentials. Do they have the right specialized knowledge, training, and experience for your particular case? For medical cases, you’ll want someone board certified in the appropriate specialty. Review their CV for academic appointments, published research, and clinical experience. The best experts have robust credentials directly related to your case issues.

Assess How They Perform Under Pressure

It’s also critical to assess how potential experts perform under pressure. Litigation involves rigorous cross-examination, where experts must think on their feet and articulate opinions clearly. Schedule a mock cross-examination to see how composed and responsive each candidate is under tough questioning. Look for experts who are confident, poised, and unflappable on the stand.

Evaluate Their Ability to Teach Complex Topics

A key role of experts is to educate the judge and jury on technical case details. The most effective experts can take complex subjects and explain them in simple, engaging ways. Evaluate each expert’s teaching skills during the vetting process. Look for clear communicators who avoid jargon and distill issues down to easy-to-grasp concepts.

Choose Someone Who Works Well with Attorneys

It’s also crucial to find experts who collaborate effectively with legal counsel. Ask candidates about their prior experience working with attorneys on cases similar to yours. Look for experts who grasp courtroom procedures and expectations. They should understand their role is to provide specialized knowledge, not legal conclusions. Ideal experts have experience adjusting their testimony based on guidance from attorneys.

Confirm Experts are Credible and Likeable

Jurors need to perceive experts as credible and likeable for their testimony to be persuasive. Select experts who come across as trustworthy, impartial professionals. Make sure they seem genuinely interested in educating the jury rather than advocating for you. Also, choose candidates who are personable and relatable on the stand. Likability is key to establishing rapport with jurors.

Do Thorough Vetting and Background Checks

Vet shortlist candidates thoroughly to avoid surprises down the road. Look for red flags like exaggerations on their CV, history of sloppy work, gaps in credentials or black marks on their records. Also run in-depth background checks to confirm everything checks out. The last thing you want is to learn of problems with an expert mid-trial, so leave no stone unturned during vetting.

Evaluate How Well They Hold Up Under Scrutiny

You’ll also want to evaluate how well experts withstand scrutiny of their credentials, experience and opinions. Ask candidates pointed questions to probe the depths of their knowledge. Also press them to support their positions with solid data and research. The best experts have informed opinions backed by ample evidence. They should demonstrate analytical rigor and deep expertise that stands up to tough questioning.

Assess Logistics Like Location and Availability

There are also some logistics to consider when hiring experts. Look for candidates located near where the trial will occur to avoid travel costs. Also make sure their schedule allows them to prepare adequately and attend proceedings. Trying to align an expert’s demanding schedule alongside all the other elements of trial can be frustrating. Opt for readily available experts who can provide the requisite time commitment.

Negotiate Fair and Reasonable Compensation

Of course, cost is a factor when hiring specialty experts. Establish fair hourly rates or flat fees upfront to avoid sticker shock down the road. Be clear about what expenses you will reimburse for items like travel and materials. Comparison shop rates to aim for reasonable compensation aligned with each expert’s qualifications and the case’s scope. Paying top dollar doesn’t always mean getting the best testimony.

Choose Someone Who Aligns with Your Case Strategy

Ultimately, look for expert witnesses who align with your broader case strategy. They should share your perspective on the relevant issues and facts. Make sure to brief shortlist candidates fully on your case approach and objectives. 

Then select experts who seem enthusiastic about supporting your desired positions and conveying information in line with your strategy. With the right expert, you’ll get testimony that bolsters your strongest arguments.

Hiring the ideal expert witness takes time but pays dividends at trial. Thoroughly vet candidates based on credentials, performance under pressure, communication skills, attorney rapport, credibility, availability and overall fit. 

Finding the right expert for your case can truly tip the scales of justice in your favor. With so much on the line, take care to choose witnesses wisely. Let me know if you need help locating a top-notch medical expert witness or other specialty expert for your upcoming trial. I’m happy to provide referrals to exceptional candidates who will make great expert witnesses.