Are you preparing an expert witness for an upcoming court case? Understand that it takes time to find the right expert and to prepare them for your case. Because they are specialized in their field or on a particular topic, they may be challenging to handle. Couple that with your expertise and familiarity with the case, and the interaction could be challenging. Remember why you’ve hired them – to offer their insight and experience that can ultimately help or hinder your case.
Begin by asking why you need an expert to testify.
There are a variety of reasons to request an expert witness to testify. These include clarifying or explaining a complex portion of the case for the jury, requirement of the law depending on the jurisdiction, or an expert to oppose another expert witness. Forensic experts are perhaps the most commonly seen not only on television shows but also cases like the Casey Anthony or OJ Simpson trials where evidence needs to be explained in a way the jury can understand.
Once an expert has been hired, address the key reasons they are needed for the case.
You?re the attorney so you know the case best. You know why the witness was hired so you can focus them on that portion of the strategy whether that’s the cause of death for Caylee Anthony, OJ’s leather glove, or something else. That way your legal team can make the most of preparing an expert witness, including requesting that they begin developing their testimony. Oftentimes witness prep time is limited so it’s important to focus them right from the start.
Let the expert give the tough testimony.
Preserve your relationship with your client by letting the expert talk about unfavorable portions of the case rather than you. That will maintain the trust you’ve developed with your client which is especially important if they are also one of the witnesses taking the stand. Rogue witnesses or clients are only good for plot points on television or in the movies. In real life, they can screw up a case and make your job a lot more challenging.
Preparing an expert witness is about what they say, not necessarily how they say it.
Some experts have the false impression that they need to sound a certain way to be taken seriously and that’s not true. They simply have to offer their expertise to support your client’s case. Jurors tend not to play well with experts who are arrogant, for example, and tend to connect more with folks who are like them. Take that into consideration when you hire an expert.
As with any other witness, remind them that it is okay to ask for clarification or to say they don’t know the answer. They’re people just like us and the jury will appreciate the honesty. Preparing an expert witness, or any witness, takes time and effort from the legal team but it is worth it when the case ends in favor of your Phoenix client.