Traveling with a Newbie Expert
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……