By Steven Babitsky, Esq. and James J. Mangraviti Jr., Esq.
One of the most effective ways to impress retaining counsel is to come prepared to the deposition preparation session. Experts who impress counsel with their work ethic, organization, and insight are much more likely to receive repeat business from the attorney. In addition, retaining counsel who is impressed with the expert is more likely to obtain referrals from the parties and colleagues of retaining counsel.
We at SEAK have conducted independent research asking retaining counsel what expert witness qualities are important to them in deciding whether or not to give the expert witness repeat business. The expert being well prepared for his/her deposition was a recurring theme from counsel. Here are just a few of the many quotes from these lawyers about the importance of preparation:
- “Preparation – the most important part. Every expert should always be a little scared about testifying/cross. When they are not, I worry. So exhaustive preparation and attention to detail right from the start.”
- “Preparation (listed twice because it’s that important to me).”
- “Thoroughness of preparation (i.e. willingness to spend time reviewing the materials and demonstrate mastery of the information)”
- “Preparation was often by phone or e-mail but the good experts often suggested lines of testimony and often had past transcripts to share. They were willing to do trial run Q and A’s and work on difficult areas. They were willing to tell me honestly what they would or would not conclude or concede. They were also willing to practice cross-examination with a colleague and myself. Finally, they were honest to tell me about past errors that might crop up in cross-examination.”
The authors work with expert witnesses to help them get ready for their preparation sessions and depositions. Here are just a few case studies of how effective preparation impressed retaining counsel.
We worked with a financial expert who was going to be testifying at deposition in a wrongful death case. The expert had limited deposition experience and was working for a well-known 350 person law firm. We worked with the expert to identify likely areas of inquiry, potential problem areas, and solutions to these problems. The expert called and told us that he was able to impress retaining counsel with his preparation, nuanced understanding of the issues, and proposed solutions. He also was able to ask very pointed questions which impressed counsel. This expert now is obtaining additional work from the law firm which originally was skeptical of his testifying experience.
The authors worked with a physician who was being deposed in a highly contentious case. We prepared her for her deposition and her meeting with retaining counsel. Working with the physician, we identified 13 problem areas and proposed strategies and solutions. When the expert met with retaining counsel he was blown away by the nuanced insight she demonstrated. Immediately after the deposition, which went very well, counsel retained her for three additional cases.
Here is a portion of the expert’s thank you note to the authors:
I wanted to thank you so much for your time yesterday, it was immeasurable.
As specialists, we all have our set of skills and it was riveting to see how you
broke out the components and marshaled them into place. While that is
extremely helpful for the current case, it is also a technique I will take away
with me and apply to future cases, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate
I also appreciate the sensitivity you demonstrated for the particulars of this
case and the work-around you found to help me stand strong on the side of
logic. There was an aha moment when we saw that objectivity could win out
over psychobabble without losing a tone of compassion which might alienate
So, again, thank you for your efforts, it was truly a fascinating experience, not
to mention extremely helpful.
Showing up at your deposition preparation session with retaining counsel well prepared is one of the most effective ways to: impress counsel, assure you will excel at your deposition, and obtain valuable and repeat business.
About the Authors
Steven Babitsky Esq. (firstname.lastname@example.org – 508-548-9443) and James J. Mangraviti Jr., Esq. (email@example.com – 978-276-1234) are principals of SEAK, Inc. – The Expert Witness Training Company (www.testifyingtraining.com). Steve and Jim are the co-authors of the text, How to Prepare Your Expert Witness for Deposition, and are frequently retained to train and prepare expert witnesses.