Expert Consultant Choice

Expert Consultant Choice

Legal Expert Consultant Choice in the Court

It’s not enough to pick someone who is smart and has an eye for detail. You need to hire someone who actually qualifies as an expert in a given case. The governing standard is set forth in rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence: a person qualified “by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education” to testify in the form of an opinion “based upon sufficient facts or data,” and produced by “reliable principles and methods” that are applied “reliably to the facts of the case.” (See Fed.R. Evid. 702.) Whether a proffered expert meets this standard will be determined by the court, usually via a separate motion.

Here’s what you should ask of any prospective expert consultant.

  • A comprehensive résumé. You want a list of every position ever held by the consultant. The more you know, the better.
  • References. It’s best to have at least five names, preferably people who have actually seen the consultant testify.
  • Party preference. Find out if the consultant has worked mostly for plaintiffs or defendants; this information is often exploited by the other side.
  • Industry experience. Sometimes the consultant is required to be knowledgeable about a given industry; in such cases, it is important to demonstrate the person’s hands-on experience in the field.
  • Prior testimony. Get a list of cases, and investigate them. If the consultant has qualified as an expert, learn in which types of cases; if the person ever failed to qualify, get the details.
  • Court opinions. Has the consultant’s work been discussed in any judicial opinions? If so, get copies and review them.
  • Publicity. Has the prospective expert ever been the subject of a profile or other write-up in a professional journal? Be sure to read what’s in print (and by all means do a Web search on all consultants before you hire them).
  • Criminal record. Has the consultant ever been convicted of a crime? If so–even if it’s a misdemeanor–it’s best to discover this now, and not at deposition.
  • Believability. Does the person present well? Is he or she confident and convincing?
  • Teaching ability. Can this expert, without being condescending, convey information in a way that is easy for a layperson to grasp? And ultimately, will jurors and judges enjoy listening to this expert?