This post (adapted from Chapter 17 in The A-Z Guide to Expert Witnessing) summarizes the common resources used by counsel and other clients to locate expert witnesses.
Referrals from Other Attorneys
Lawyers talk to each other all the time, asking for advice and tips on how to handle certain matters. This includes recommendations on expert witnesses. Experts who have excelled in previous cases are in the best position to be recommended
Expert Opposed Attorney in Past Case
It is very common for attorneys to seek out experts who have testified against their client in a previous matter. One of the greatest compliments an expert can receive is to have the opposing attorneys ask for their business card at the conclusion of a deposition. .
Expert Witness Locator and Referral Services
Many attorneys turn to expert locator/referral services for assistance. There are several reasons that attorneys may turn to these services. These include the following.
- They are unable to get a recommendation for an expert.
- They do not have the time or inclination to search for an expert by some other means.
- Their first-choice experts have been retained by the opposition.
- Their first-choice experts are unavailable.
- They need an out-of-state expert witness and can’t get a recommendation on an expert in that locale.
- The expert specialty area is very narrow (for example, arctic exposure) and there are very few experts in that field.
- They are pressed for time.
Expert witness referral services are usually not an attorney’s first choice in choosing an expert. There are three main reasons for this. First, they do not get a trusted colleague’s opinion as to the effectiveness of the potential expert. Second, there may be a fee involved in using the service, such as a significant mark up of the expert’s hourly rate. Finally, the fact that the witness is registered with a referral agency may be brought in front of the jury to show bias.
Professional and Legal Associations
Counsel looking for a specific type of expert will often contact a particular discipline or profession’s association. Many of these associations provide lists of experts and consultants, online membership directories, literature searches, and recommendations. These services may be complimentary to the attorney and may be provided as a free service to the association’s members. Experts may contact the professional organizations in which they have memberships to find out if they offer these services.
Many lawyers seek out experts who have published texts and articles. They consider such experts to have the credibility inherent in someone who “wrote the book” on a particular topic. Experts who have published in a certain field are very easy to find through computer-based literature searches.
Counsel may turn to certifying organizations when searching for experts. For example, the American Board of Independent Medical Examiners (ABIME) lists approximately 1,500 physicians who have passed a rigorous exam and are board certified in their underlying clinical field. Most certifying agencies provide counsel with a directory or list of members for use in selecting experts or have these directories available online.
Lawyers may try to tap into universities when looking for experts. Professors and other instructors may have increased credibility with a jury. Those experts who act as professors, instructors, or even adjunct instructors at colleges and universities increase their visibility to counsel. .
Experts Used in the Past
Attorneys often use experts who have performed well for them in the past.
Jury Verdict Reviews
Settlements and jury verdicts are reported in online and print legal publications. These reports contain the results of the case and often contain the names of the expert witnesses in the case. Counsel will frequently contact experts reported in jury verdict reports when undertaking a new case.
Client Referral of In-House Experts
The client itself is often looked to by counsel when searching for an expert. These in-house experts, usually the employees of the company, are available, experienced, and will testify without additional payment. The impartiality of these in-house experts will often be questioned, however.
Attorneys commonly use the Internet to locate expert witnesses. There are many Internet sites of expert witness directories where experts can list themselves such as the SEAK Expert Witness Directory. In addition, attorneys may find an expert witness’s Web page through search engines. The Internet is fast and easy to use, and it is a very important tool attorneys use to locate expert witnesses.
Counsel may use directories and source books to locate experts. Most of these publications require the payment of an annual listing fee for the expert to be listed. Many directories also include an online listing. See for example, the SEAK Expert Witness Directory
Many lawyers look in the professional services or classified section of state and national legal publications in their search for experts.
Paid Online Legal Research Services
Attorneys also use paid legal research services to locate expert witnesses. The two most commonly used services are LexisNexis and Westlaw. These databases are quite extensive and can be used to find experts from:
- past cases the expert has testified in,
- past transcripts and reports,
- jury verdict reporters citing the expert, and
- online and print directories of expert witnesses.
Referrals from other Expert Witnesses
Lawyers may contact experts they have used in the past to obtain recommendations on an expert in an allied or even in a different field. For example, a lawyer may call a psychiatrist he has worked with for a recommendation of a psychologist. Experts in a specialty may be willing to refer a colleague for cases when they are unavailable or are conflicted out of a case.
Attorneys may ask a fact witness to become their expert witness. The most common example of this is a treating physician.
Presentations by Witness
Attorneys may hire experts they have heard give presentations at an attorneys’ professional association or other venue. Presentations are a great opportunity for an expert to showcase his capabilities because they allow the expert to demonstrate both his knowledge and his presentation skills. Note, however, that opposing counsel will obtain the expert’s handout materials to use against the expert during cross-examination.
Networking and Social Acquaintances
Attorneys may hire experts they have become acquainted with socially or whose paths they have crossed professionally.