How to Screen an Expert Witness

How to Screen an Expert Witness

Read Time: 5 Minutes

Screening calls are typically used by litigators to gauge a potential expert witnesses’ qualifications and expertise as it relates to a case. But for a potential expert witness, a screening call is an opportunity to get to know the case better and decide if their experience matches the expertise required. You need to understand if the case is right for you. To demystify the process, let’s go through what qualifies an expert witness and how to uncover the information you need to evaluate an opportunity.

Who Can Be an Expert Witness?

According to the Federal Rules of Evidence, a qualified expert witness either practices in the relevant profession or has specialized knowledge by means of training or education. Their testimony is expected to be reliable using facts and data as well as helpful to the overall argument being presented. Federally, this is examined under the Daubert standard, the test used by trial judges in federal and some state courts to assess the validity of an expert’s scientific testimony.

In a screening call with an attorney, you will likely be asked questions regarding your employment, specializations, academic degrees, licenses, publications, and past testimony experience. These questions will help the attorney decide if your expertise fits their case, but there are also questions you should ask to better understand the opportunity.

Is the Opportunity a Match for My Expertise?

In order to gauge whether or not you can confidently opine on the subject matter, you must understand the qualifications necessary for the opportunity. Any information or expertise you share must be truthful and an accurate representation of your experience.

Here are some questions to ask to help you evaluate an opportunity:

  • What do you need an expert to discuss?
  • What specific expertise do you need?
  • How does my expertise fit into your case?

If you encounter a case that is outside your expertise, be up-front about that. Taking on a case that is not a good fit can potentially damage your reputation and professional credibility.

If you conclude that you cannot reliably opine on a subject but know someone who can, you can refer that person. It may be more common than you think. GLG has a formal referral program so you can recommend someone from your personal network into ours. If that person ends up being the right fit, you will be rewarded for your referral.

Time Frames, Deadlines, and Turnarounds

Scheduling conflicts are one of the top reasons that an expert witness opportunity may not be a good fit. Litigation has tight deadlines and quick turnarounds. The interviewing attorney should go through the timeline for substantive work with you, but if this does not come up, you should bring it up. It’s important to be honest about your availability so that no foreseeable issues arise in the duration of the case.

To understand the expected time frame of the opportunity, you can ask:

  • Is there flexibility on the deadlines?
  • Have you filed for any extensions on the deadline?
  • Are there specific dates that I need to block on my calendar?

Scope of Work and What Needs to Be Done

The work required for each case differs and may include anything from behind-the-scenes consulting to trial testimony. As with time constraints, the interviewer should bring up expectations regarding the scope of work they expect from you. Take this time to learn about the attorney’s needs and decide if you have the bandwidth for the work.

Scope of work and estimated time frame can go hand in hand. Sometimes there is a very small amount of work needed up front, but significant work will be required down the line.

To ensure you understand the scope of work for the entirety of the case, ask the interviewer:

  • Approximately how long do you think it will take to complete X task?
  • What are your expectations for the report in terms of substance and length?
  • What kind of discovery have you already received?
  • Do you expect that I will be working with any of your colleagues when completing this work?

Conflicts and Whom You Should Think About

When dealing with cases related to your expertise, there is always a chance that you may come across a conflict of interest. This is defined as a situation in which a person has an obligation to more than one organization or person and cannot do justice to either party without jeopardizing the integrity of the case.

Whether it occurs on the plaintiff’s or defendant’s side, it’s important to address potential conflicts during the screening call. Discussing any and every potential conflict that you may foresee will save the inconvenience of addressing them later on, once work has already been completed and time has already been billed.

To assess any potential conflicts, ask in your screening call:

  • Who are the parties involved in the case?
  • What law firms/attorneys are involved in the case?
  • Are there other conflicts I should be aware of?
  • I have worked with X person or company in the past. Would this be an issue?
  • What would the opposition know about me before the trial?
  • What experts has the other side retained?
  • Will there be other experts on this case with me?

Screening calls are your opportunity to familiarize yourself with the case, ask questions, and decide if your experience matches the expertise required. By getting a better grasp on the expertise required, expected time frame and scope of work, and any potential conflicts, you can make an informed decision on the opportunity before proceeding.

GLG identifies expert witness candidates for our law firm clients from our screened network of approximately 1 million Network Members. When clients come to us with expert witness opportunities, we quickly connect them with members whose experience best matches the need. Interested in starting expert witness work? Join our network to be considered for upcoming expert witness opportunities.

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