Mastering attorney/expert relationships are difficult! Attorneys are often faced with finding a suitable expert to provide relevant expertise efficiently and in a cost-effective manner. A document expert is frequently engaged when a suspect document requires determination of authorship or authenticity. Nothing kills the love faster between the attorney/expert relationship until one or more of these situations becomes a reality. Mastering the attorney/expert relationship has never been easier if you follow these 5 tips:
- The Clueless Client: Having a client phone the expert instead of the attorney causes significant problems when the expert lacks sufficient qualifications, education and relevant experience. Together, the attorney and client should identify potential experts and thoroughly review their backgrounds, retainer agreements, fee schedules, Curriculum Vitaes and published articles. It’s important to get a feel for the expert’s communication style by asking about their experience, education, and continuing education in the field. Ask the expert for a list of references, testimonies, and a sample report. Other inquiries about disqualifications, felonies, or conflicts of interest should also be addressed to ensure the best Expert is hired for the job.
- The Ticking Time Bomb: This attorney has waited too long to find an expert or has been surprised by a recent development in the case and now requires immediate attention. Calling an expert with a short turnaround time is not advisable and strongly discouraged. Be considerate of an expert’s time and the limitations expressed by the expert as to what can or cannot be accomplished within the written standards and/or timeframe. If a report must be completed within a short time period, expect the expert will charge a premium to expedite the case. Expert’s hate being rushed. The more time attorney’s can provide the Experts, the better.
- The Mouthpiece: Most attorneys like to explain in detail all of the legal issues put before them. Generally, this level of detail is not needed by the Expert and may prejudice the expert before examining the case. Be mindful of what details the expert requires regarding the background of the case. Usually, if the expert has any questions, they will ask! A summary of events, specimens to be examined, the request for examination, delivery method, and payment options should all be discussed after initial contact has been made. Overly detailed or frequent follow-up phone calls to the expert are best avoided and often run up staggering fees.
- The Tease: This attorney engages an Expert but sends the requested items for examination over several weeks or months dragging out the examination process. If all the evidence cannot be sent together, make sure the expert is aware and the projected timeframe for the examination. The Expert may decide not to accept a case with an extended timeline. If the case is overly complex with lots of moving parts, designate one attorney or associate for all correspondence with the Expert. Legal assistants, secretaries, and paralegals can be enormously helpful if given the authorization to deal directly with the experts.
- The Delayed Debtor: The trial has finished but the Expert still has an invoice for outstanding services accrued during this time. The attorney should acknowledge the invoice of the Expert explaining how and when they should expect payment. Serving as a conduit between the client and the expert, the attorney should proactively ask the expert to submit their invoice to ensure prompt payment. Paying experts in a timely fashion ensures that the experts will want to work with you again. Good attorneys will also prepare their clients that Experts may desire the majority of their fees paid before an upcoming trial and/or deposition. Transparency about costs, fees and payments should be agreed in advance before large invoices are submitted.