How to Impress Retaining Counsel

By Steven Babitsky, Esq. and James J. Mangraviti Jr., Esq.

Introduction

One of the most effective ways to impress retaining counsel is to come well-prepared to your deposition preparation session with him. Experts who impress counsel with their work ethic, organization, case insight, and readiness with articulate answers to challenging questions and likely opposing counsel tactics will see their reputation soar.  Earning a superb reputation greatly facilitates repeat and word-of-mouth referrals.

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Research

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 and positive word of mouth. 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.”

Case Studies

The authors work with expert witnesses to help them get ready for their depositions. Here are two case studies of how effective preparation for deposition impressed retaining counsel.

Damages Expert

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 top tier 350 attorney, international 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.

Medical Expert

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 for their preparation session together 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 this 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 that.

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 the judge.

So, again, thank you for your efforts, it was truly a fascinating experience, not to mention extremely helpful.

Conclusion

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 (stevenbabitsky@seak.com 508-548-9443). and James J. Mangraviti Jr., Esq. (jim@seak.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.