Last week, I explained what an expert witness was and how you could become one. This week, I wanted to provide some tips to keep in mind should you be asked to be an expert witness. Before going any further, let me state that I have only been asked to be an expert witness once. My point being that I am not an expert at being an expert witness. Nevertheless, I think my experience, as limited as it is, will help others shorten the learning curve for them. I hope you will agree.
Me? An Expert Witness?
If the lawyer decides that you would be a good candidate for his client, you will be asked if you are interested in being an expert witness. It is essential that you begin to do your own due diligence before agreeing to work for the attorney. First, you need to be sure that you could properly speak to the case under review. Repeat back to the attorney your understanding of the case and how you think you would be able to speak to the situation. Confirm that your perception matches what the attorney thinks.
Problem of Time
Next ask yourself whether you have the time to give to the project. You will likely have some reading to do. Also, you may have to travel, and travel on short notice. Keep in mind that being an expert witness can be quite disruptive to your schedule. Courts don’t care about your schedule. Your attorney will try to give you as much notice as he/she can, but in the end, they can’t be sure when you will be needed as trials develop a life of their own. Sometimes things go fast, other times they don’t.
Question of Money
You will need to determine a pay rate. At minimum, your rate should be what you would earn from wildlife control, the good paying jobs plus a hassle factor. You may want to consider a higher hourly rate when you are in the city where the court/mediation trial is being held. Alternatively, you could charge a higher rate during the time you are at the courthouse and/or testifying. Don’t lowball your rate but simultaneously don’t charge lawyer rates. You are the witness not the attorney. You want to charge enough to make the job worth your full attention but not so much that your client goes bankrupt trying to pay for you.
Being an expert witness is exciting and stressful. But it isn’t for everyone. Hopefully, my limited experience will help your first-time as an expert witness go smoothly.