How To Start a Lucrative Expert Witness Practice

How to Start a Lucrative Expert Witness Practice

By Steven Babitsky, Esq. and James J. Mangraviti, Jr., Esq.
© 2004 SEAK, Inc.

An expert witness practice can be extremely lucrative. Expert witnesses on average earn $250-$400 per hour for their time spent assisting lawyers. Start-up costs and overhead expenses for experts are usually very low. Persons who wish to start an expert witness practice should follow the following four steps:

1. Determine if you are qualified to be an expert. Under the law, to be an expert witness a person needs “knowledge, skill, experience, training or education.” This is a fairly loose standard and it means that experience, knowledge or skills in the eyes of the law is just as important as education or training. It also means that you do not need an advanced degree.

Expert witnessing is not “just for medical doctors.” The authors sponsor an annual conference for expert witnesses. At the 2004 conference we had over 100 different areas of expertise in attendance from arborists, accident reconstruction and appraisers to vehicle dynamics, vocational rehabilitation and whistle blowing. Does your background qualify you to be an expert witness? It probably does.

2. Prepare a curriculum vitae (C.V.) appropriate for expert witness work. Before any attorney hires you, they’ll want to see your C.V. Curriculum vitae roughly means “academic life.” These are typically maintained and used by persons seeking a faculty, research, clinical, or scientific position, and persons who serve as expert witnesses. The expert’s C.V. usually includes education, publications, presentations, professional activities, professional membership, professional licenses, honors, and additional information.

A C.V. is different than a resume in two major ways. C.V.s do not have “objective” sections and C.V.s are not limited to one page. In fact, for an expert who has published a lot or who presents frequently, a C.V. can become quite lengthy.

Your first step in starting an expert witness practice is to draft a C.V. appropriate for expert witness work. If you need help with this, look for models on the internet or contact a colleague who maintains a C.V. for expert witness work.

3. Get some training on how to be an expert so you know what counsel is looking for and how to best deliver. Retaining counsel will be looking for your oral and written opinion, your help in challenging opposing experts and your willingness to testify at deposition and trial. Prior to spreading the word on your availability to serve as an expert it’s best to get some basic training on what experts do and how best to do it. You’ll also want to get a basic feel for the nuts and bolts of how much to charge and how to collect your fee. There are numerous publications and training seminars available that serve this purpose. Talk to your colleagues for recommendations on what they have found helpful and see if your professional societies sponsor any continuing education on this topic.

4. Spread the word. Once you’ve drafted your C.V. and obtained some basic information on how to be an expert, it’s then time to spread the word on your availability. Talk to lawyers you know and tell them you are available for this type of work. Write articles and speak on topics that might be of interest to litigators. Consider signing up for expert witness referral agencies. There are many of these that will feed you cases at no cost to yourself – they charge a locator fee to the attorney that is retaining you. If you are willing to make a small out-of-pocket investment, consider a listing in an expert witness directory or placing a small ad in a periodical read by litigators. An investment of your time and a small amount of money in spreading the word about your availability will likely be returned to you many fold.

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Conclusion

Expert witnessing is an intellectually stimulating and financially rewarding endeavor. By following the above four simple steps you can be well on your way to starting a lucrative expert witness practice.

About the Authors:
Steven Babitsky and James J. Mangraviti, Jr. are both former litigators who have trained thousands of expert witnesses. They are the co-leaders of the annual National Expert Witness Seminar, have co-authored numerous texts on expert witnessing including The A-Z Guide to Expert Witnessing, Cross-Examination: The Comprehensive Guide for Experts, National Guide to Expert Witness Fees and Billing Procedures, Depositions: The Comprehensive Guide for Expert Witnesses, Writing and Defending Your Expert Report: The Step-by-Step Guide with Models, How to Become a Dangerous Expert Witness: Advanced Techniques and Strategies, and The Biggest Mistakes Expert Witnesses Make: And How to Avoid Them and have co-produced several educational DVDs for expert witnesses. Steve and Jim currently serve as principals of SEAK, Inc. a national continuing education firm specializing in training, consulting, and services for expert witnesses of all specialties. For more information please visit www.testifyingtraining.com.