How do I go about expert witnessing?
April 21, 2016 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Assuming I've got the expertise and credentials nailed down, how should I hang out my shingle as an expert witness? Basic google searches find a lot of directory services with mostly what look like low bars to entry, are these reasonably legitimate, are there some known to have good reputations?

If relevant, I am in the USA, in my mid-30s, with a PhD, working in government (I know the restrictions). I have essentially all the credentials possible in my niche engineering/safety/regulatory profession. I don't have a national reputation as being a leader in the field, but am reasonably connected. I am trying to get more active in standards organizations, any other advice for positioning myself?

Answers from practicing lawyers or those who have served as expert witnesses particularly valued.
posted by Across the pale parabola of joy to Work & Money (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Publications. Serve on committees. Get elected to things in your professional organizations. Attend conferences on the regulatory law in your profession. Visible indicia of mainstream respect in your field is what the lawyers will want to demonstrate to the judge (to qualify you) and to the jury (to impress them).

More generally, work on your charisma and presentation skills. In most fields, there are a fair number of people with credentials sufficient for all but the highest-level work. Lawyers will want someone who projects an air of competence, can explain things in a credible and understandable way, and won't go wandering off on tangents.

Get a clear sense of what the process entails. Just sitting and explaining your opinions to the lawyers can be an enjoyable challenge. Producing a heavily lawyered and constrained report, less so. (They don't want your opinion; they want you to put your imprimatur on whatever opinion works for them.) Being deposed, pretty universally regarded as an unpleasant experience.

Basically it's a self-perpetuating process once it gets started, but getting those first couple of gigs is often just a matter of connections and luck.
posted by praemunire at 4:25 PM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Articles on your area for state bar journals are a good way to get some attention. Like, "Regulatory changes bring challenges for Indiana farmers" or some shit like that, and then you write a 750-word piece about how lawyers and their farmer clients need to address those changes and some possible pitfalls. Or "Five areas of concern for building managers with new Indiana law." Whatever. Mention you're available as an expert witness in your author blurb. It gets your name out in front of attorneys in your state as a subject-matter expert and when they need to find an expert on your obscure area, they may recall having seen the article in the bar journal and look you up. Take a look at the journals to see what kinds of things they're printing, and emulate that form.

(These are the magaziney bar journals I'm talking about -- the ones that have profiles of local lawyers and usually a cringeworthy legal humor column and some short practice update pieces and so on. Actual law journals have much more cache but are much harder to get published in, have much more stringent writing requirements, and far fewer people read them. Most lawyers at least flip through the magazine when it comes in the mail to scan the headlines. Many states also have a daily or weekly legal newspaper that's always hunting for filler articles. Not as many people read those -- they're mostly for printing notices really -- but it's still a law-related publication credit.)

All this gives you publication credits to put on your CV that you'll target at lawyers. It's also not unusual to send pitch letters to law firms that practice in your area of law outlining your credentials and availability, although I have no idea how many experts get picked up that way.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:53 PM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

For engineering and similar professions, a reputable referral company like TASA can be a good source of referrals.
posted by yclipse at 5:50 PM on April 21, 2016

I used to recruit and train experts to testify. Our new experts were frequently those recommended by our old experts who were moving away, too busy to commit further, or retiring. If you know someone who is frequently retained as an expert, let them know you're in the market. Also attending (or, even better, speaking at) bar conferences addressing the subject matter will help you make connections.
posted by *s at 8:20 AM on April 22, 2016

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