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How to Become an Expert Witness

There are many ways to become a qualified expert witness, it could be through job experience or  extensive education. Regardless, there are guidelines that will show your qualifications to testify as an expert before a court.


Often, an expert witness will have the latest or terminal degree in their field. However, having a long and acclaimed career in your profession can counterbalance the need for a thorough academic background. Having years of experience and a dignified position are primary concerns. If an attorney is interested in retaining you based on your credentials, they will usually consider a number of elements including:


  • Have you won any prestigious awards, grants, or fellowships?

  • Do you have published work in highly regarded journals or trade publications?

  • Have you served as a speaker at professional conferences?

  • Have you been quoted by the press?


The significance of these factors can vary from case to case, and from attorney to attorney, but usually the more professional accolades an individual has the more attractive they will be as a candidate to act as an expert witness. Other logistical considerations can factor into an attorney’s decision to choose you as an expert witness, including:


  • The flexibility of your schedule

  • Your previous experience working as an expert witness

  • Your proximity to the trial’s location

  • The hourly rate you establish for your services

  • Your ability to communicate complex concepts in a simple and straightforward manner


The legal qualification for expert witness


There are no rules that dictate who can and can’t serve as an expert witness. Alternatively, attorneys and judges rely on many noteworthy court opinions when determining whether an individual is qualified. An individual must provide that their experience and knowledge are appropriate and have substance. Without credentials, a record based on scientific data or testing methods, they may just disqualify the expert. An Individual may only work as an advisor to the lawyer to find a new expert with superior qualifications. Prior to the 1990’s precedent was set for qualifications that still apply today. One relevant case is  Frye vs. the United States and the other is Daubert vs. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Frye held that witnesses needed to provide testimony that was based on techniques that were generally accepted in the scientific community. The Frye standards are still held up in many state courts, although many states have embraced a newer standard based on the Daubert case. In 1993, Daubert produced a new way by which expert witnesses are qualified. The Supreme Court converted the arguably more stringent requirements of Frye.  The decision in the Daubert case declared that testimony can be based on an expert’s professional opinion, if an expert witness has used the scientific methods, that relies on peer- reviewed methodology and the expert also has experience and education to support their closure. This newer standard is used by the majority of state courts and the federal court system.


What are some ways to market your services as an expert witness?


The Majority of expert witnesses start by developing a web page. Some experts develop a slot which is a small area of expertise that is very narrow, in which they can dominate a certain market. After they have a web presence, then a lot of experts utilize expert witness directories. Legal Experts Direct has an amazing expert witness directory, there are other directories out there that are amazing as well. By contacting insurance companies, attorneys and others who would hire experts to testify for them. Another way to market your service is to generate positive word of mouth which can craft solid expert reports and respond quickly to clients request, defending expert opinions in deposition and reporting persuasively at trial will create a positive impression.


Is there a lot of competition to be an expert witness in most fields?


It would depend on the field you are an expert in. Some fields have a tremendous amount of competition. But that doesn’t mean that you still can’t do well, because there’s a lot of need for expertise. Now a question you might have is how many experts are there for all the business in expert work, taking an example, like medical malpractice, there may be 10,000 malpractice experts, maybe 2,000 or 400 of them who testify, and if there’s thousands of cases there is a great deal of business to go around.


What are the biggest mistakes you see people make when getting started as an expert witness?


The biggest mistake is that usually they don’t get involved in any training. They don’t read any books, they usually have a very poor intention of what they should be doing. For the basic mistakes is doing tacky work and getting involved in a case that they shouldn’t be getting into. The newer experts don’t get retainer agreements. They don’t get paid upfront or not getting paid at all. Unfortunately, a lot of these mistakes become a part of their record permanently and even if they wanted to learn from their mistakes. My recommendation to upcoming experts is that before they run off and become an expert, that they get some training, read books, and learn from people about what they need before getting into legal expert work. Reading and researching what you’re going to be doing, learning the forms can be very invaluable. Getting a couple of books will cost a few hundred dollars, but you will be saving thousands and thousands of dollars which can build a long and outstanding career.


Things You Should Consider Before Accepting an Expert Witness Engagement


Before approving to become an expert witness, you have to be sure that you are comfortable going through trial or deposition, in addition to having your personal and professional record through an adversarial process. Not every case leads to a courtroom, although there is no shortage of expert witness opportunities that only involve independent testing, accident site visits, review of paper records, or report writing. It is supreme that you share exactly what you are and are not comfortable doing with attorneys before becoming an expert therefore everyone is on the same page going forward so they know what is expected.


Requirements to be an expert witness?


Requirements for serving as an expert witness are far more extensive, requirements include demand for the area of expertise. The areas of expertise need to be one that litigators are looking for. Additional requirements include the ability to consistently meet deadlines. In order to do this successfully, an expert witness is required to see the value in what they can give and how they can deliver their expertise to the best of their ability.