1 - Read the CV and the Services Agreement Provided by the Expert – ask questions if you have them.
2 - Upon Executing a Services Agreement – email a copy to the expert’s office so you can be placed in his/her project workflow. Then send a hard copy along with the retainer check. Only at this point do the courts recognize an expert as being retained.
3 – Send Documents to Consider to the Expert – this should include a copy of the complaint along with any documents that you would like the expert to consider. Historically, the best way to manage expert fees is to only send documents that have value to the expert in formulating his or her opinion. Sending duplicates, wasted pages, or documents that do not pertain to the expert’s area of expertise simply costs you more in expert fees.
4 - What Would You Like the Expert to Opine About? – This is a critically important question for any expert. An expert should never provide an opinion on anything outside of his or her area of expertise. It is always best for the attorney, the expert, and the managing of the case, if the attorney spells out specifically what it is that he or she would like to get the expert to opine about, or specifically what questions they would like answered by the expert. This will help save on expert fees and will make the expert’s opinion more focused and reliable.
5 – Why Is an Unbiased Opinion and an Unbiased Expert Important? – Because any lawyer worth his or her salt knows that an expert and an expert’s opinion must be unbiased for the court, or anyone else for that matter, to be able to reasonably rely on it and consider it in a court of law. An expert is not and cannot be an advocate for you, your client, or your case. The services agreement and the systems that most professional experts use are designed to ensure that the expert is always completely and unquestionably unbiased on all matters. You are best off not attempting to sway your expert’s opinion in any way.
6 – Does Your Matter Require an Onsite Visit? – In certain cases, an onsite visit to the location where the incident took place is critically important to the credibility and reliability of the expert’s opinion. In other matters, an onsite visit is not necessary and simply a waste of time and money. An onsite visit may allow the matter to more clearly resonate for the expert and can be critical in helping the expert formulate an opinion. You should always ask an expert if an onsite visit is a prudent use of time and money for your particular matter.
7 - Opinions and Reports – Experts should provide clear and concise opinions using language which can be understood by non-experts. These opinions and reports should be provided using the best evidence and basis of fact, and what the expert deems to be reasonable and customary across the industry or within his or her given area of expertise. By using a solid basis to support a clear and concise opinion, a qualified expert can opine with what is considered to be a strong and reliable level of professional certainty.
8 – Deadlines – Inform your expert of all pending deadlines and calendar dates. An expert should never miss a deadline – but it’s your job to keep them informed well in advance.
9 – Abide by the Terms of the Executed Services Agreement – An expert is required to abide by the terms and conditions of the executed services agreement between the parties. A professional and reliable expert is usually a stickler for detail and compliance, as this is one of the ways that the expert can ensure that he maintains his completely unbiased position. Opposing counsel will eat up experts who give their clients special terms and show favoritism, or allow the client to ignore the terms of the executed services agreement. An expert is best advised to abide by the terms and conditions of his or her services agreement and should reasonably expect his client to do so as well.
10 – Pay Your Expert on Time – Not only is paying your expert on time important, but if you don’t, it could have a highly-devastating impact on the outcome of your case. Most courts do not allow an expert to have any sort of vested interest in the outcome of a case; and, therefore, experts are best advised to require that clients make payments that stay in line with the terms and conditions of the services agreement. Besides, it is best to not place your expert in any position that could make him look compromised in any way.
11 – Communication – A critically important key to any relationship of any kind is effective and efficient communication. Most experts prefer telephone communication.
Howard Cannon is a highly-recognized Restaurant Expert Witness, Consultant, Analyst, and Speaker. He is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Restaurant© - found in 76 countries around the globe. Mr. Cannon is the CEO of Restaurant Expert Witness and Restaurant Consultants of America, and can be reached at 800-300-5764 or via the web at RestaurantExpertWitness.com or RestaurantConsultantsOfAmerica.com.