Are You Qualified to Be an Expert Witness?
Read Time: 4 Minutes
Being an expert witness is a serious undertaking. Anyone who takes the witness stand should have impeccable credentials and extensive experience in their field, as well as be objective and able to communicate effectively to judge and jury.
David Katz, founder and chief executive officer of Global Security Group, was a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration for 15 years before founding his company. He has worked on three cases as an expert witness, either as an investigator or as an expert on ballistics and firearms training and qualifications. “I know things that only a small segment of the population knows,” he says. “Being an expert witness allows me to use my background, training, and experience to have a positive effect and not allow a person to be convicted unjustly.”
For Nevium LLC principal Brian Buss, who has been an expert witness in intellectual property valuations and damages for nearly 10 years, being an expert witness is like working on a puzzle. “You never get all the information you want, so you have to find the missing pieces or have an analytical approach that stands up even though you don’t have all the pieces,” he says. “It’s like a brain teaser challenge, and someone will win or lose based on your evaluations.”
Katz and Buss shared five questions to ask yourself to determine if you are qualified to be an expert witness.
Are you credible?
Whether you’re an arborist, zoologist, or anything in-between, you must have an established career and be able to answer questions about every part of your industry. “You have to be the authority, able to match opinion with anyone you encounter,” says Katz. He suggests staying with what you know. A pediatrician shouldn’t be an expert witness for testimony that needs a surgeon’s expertise, for example.
It’s also imperative to stay updated on changes within your industry. “There’s always a new case or court ruling, new rules or laws,” says Buss. “It’s part of my daily routine to stay informed about company developments or new technologies.”
Are you an effective communicator?
A large part of being an expert witness involves teaching lawyers, the judge, and the jury about your subject. “You have to be somewhat professorial, educating people on the basics and explaining tactically how something happens,” says Katz. Having a clear, down-to-earth communication style is key.
Are you calm, cool, and collected?
After you’ve worked with your lawyers to lay out the case and your opinion, it’s opposing counsel’s turn to try to prove you wrong. Being able to handle cross-examination takes a certain type of personality. “You have to be the kind of person who can be attacked and not take it personally,” says Buss. Katz agrees: “Cross exam is withering; it can be seven or eight hours in one day. It’s brutal. But it’s also kind of fun.”
Are you consistent?
It’s vital that you haven’t flip-flopped on your opinions or beliefs throughout your career. If you have, opposing counsel will uncover it — and use the information against you. “If you have ever testified differently or written an article with a different opinion, they will find out,” says Katz. “Not only does opposing counsel do deep internet searches on you, but they will also talk to people who know you.”
Do you have the time to dedicate to the case?
Being an expert witness is a big commitment. After reviewing all the evidence and writing an expert report, you might have to testify in court. You are never the captain of the litigation ship,” says Buss. “You need to be willing to work on their schedules.”
Professional and personal considerations must be made when contemplating expert witness work. But if you have the expertise and a desire to share your knowledge, expert witness engagements can be rewarding experiences.
If you’re interested in taking on expert witness work, you can join our network of approximately 1 million subject matter experts. Our network members are automatically considered for our clients’ expert witness opportunities, you can create your profile here.