• Andrea Dobrin

And here we are, one week later and hopefully I haven’t lost the three people who read this Blog last week. Hooray! Victory!

When last I wrote we were on the verge of putting all of the research that was completed together and to start writing the Expert Witness Report. So… is when I would expect you to ask, “What does that look like Andy??” Well, read on…...

It is absolutely true that Expert Witness reports come in all shapes and sizes. After having read my share of other people’s reports I have discovered that the more letters a person has after their name the shorter the report unless they are in Social Services. Social Service experts will reproduce War and Peace and try to add Anna Karenina on the back end if they believe it will support their position. (Note the Russian references – so current!)

As a newbie to the field, the first few reports I constructed were very lengthy as well (clearly, I am exposing my own background in social services!). However, over time I figured out how to narrow my focus to just the key elements, the source of which can be found in the following places:

  • First, turn to your attorney. From the time you are solicited for your opinion, the attorney will help to acclimate you to the case and their reasons for seeking your particular set of skills. These conversations are critical to understanding not only the facts of the case but also some of the initial hurdles.

  • The second source is the Complaint document itself. This is probably the first document you will receive and is key to understanding what the Plaintiff’s attorney believes your client has done wrong. Focus on parts of the complaint that you (and all your experience) are required to address. Read this document carefully!

  • The third and a critical source of information for your report is located in the depositions of the parties. This is often one of the most painful tasks for an Expert Witness because the sheer number of depositions coupled with the length of each deposition is directly associated with the well known syndrome Expert Witness Hari Kari. All joking aside, this is the area where many Experts make their biggest mistakes.

  • Fourth in line are the other Expert Witness reports in the case. Read carefully what these folks have said, and if they can be refuted then take your best shot!

  • Fifth and last are all of the rules, regulations and policies you identified in your research. What rules were broken? Which support your client? It sounds simplistic, but what you are focused on can generally fall into one of three categories:

  1. What did they do?

  2. What were they required to do?

  3. What did they say they were going to do?

Next week we’ll take a closer look at reading depositions and why this can become the hill on which many Experts die…..figuratively speaking of course!

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  • Andrea Dobrin

When I was first approached by an attorney to step into the role of an Expert Witness I naively believed that the work would be simple, exciting and slightly glamorous. Afterall, I had many years of experience, am comfortable with writing a report and (always) have a lot to say……..

Three years later and after wading through several cases I can look back with a much clearer and far more cynical eye. Turns out I was dead wrong about much of what I originally thought. The work is neither simple or glamourous (it can be scary!), and having years of experience can only help if you have the innate ability to apply it to an endless variety of scenarios.

At least 50% of the work is spent up front with a ton of hardcore reading and research. I’m not sure that are other industries that produce as much documentation as the legal system, but I’d be hard pressed to name them. Gut check folks, it’s not just that there is a lot of reading- it is a lot of intense reading. There are often thousands of documents to review in order to identify the critical elements of a case, a good chunk of which you cannot bill your clients for…that is if you wish to continue having clients.

Closely following all that reading is the research. Do you really enjoy reading hundreds of government rules and regulations or technical volumes? (It turns out I do J!) If you are not someone who enjoys finding out all of the rules and regulations that apply to a situation- and I do mean ALL, then this aspect of the work will undo you as it is by far the most laborious and critical aspect of the work.

After digging deep into your analytical self and matching every regulation and standard to each element of the case, you now have to compile all of this information into some sort of cohesive discussion with the attorney assigned to your case. If I can impart any bit of advice to a new expert- keep the credo “no surprises” uppermost in your mind as you prepare to talk through your findings with the attorney. Focus on any holes in the case, and especially on any missing information – there is always missing information!

So here you are - you have read, digested, and prepared yourself like you’re eighteen and the SAT’s are coming. You have talked things over with the attorney and have located as much of the missing information as you’re going to get. At last, the bulk of the work is behind you! Hah! Guess again! And again!

Stay tuned, and travel along with me next week as we talk about the really tough and scary bits of being a newbie Expert Witness……

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