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How do Attorneys Find an Expert Witness?

Geri Terzo
By Geri Terzo
Updated May 17, 2024
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An expert witness can be a critical tool for either a defense or prosecution attorney attempting to prove a case in a court of law or for a deposition. To find an expert witness, a law firm might perform its own search or hire a third-party consulting firm that specializes in finding experts in a particular field. Either way, an expert witness is not required to testify in a court of law unless there is a subpoena, although some testify on a frequent basis. Testimony often is provided in exchange for a fee. The process could begin with search on the Internet or via a professional referral, although either method usually is the beginning of a more detailed process.

There are several steps involved in finding an expert witness, including a stringent vetting process. It is important for an attorney to know the credentials of the prospective witness, including the level of education, degrees earned and areas of study in addition to work experience. Additional criteria, including published articles, awards and other recognitions tied to the area of expertise needed might be factored into a decision and are all part of the vetting process.

Communication skills also play a role leading to a decision on which expert to place on the stand. To find an expert witness, a lawyer must have a plan about what needs to be conveyed to a jury or a judge. If a potential witness expresses himself or herself clearly, breaks down complex information so that it is relatively easy to understand and projects confidence on the witness stand, he or she is more likely to be selected for the process.

To find an expert witness, an attorney likely will have to agree to a fee, unless the witness is subpoenaed by a court of law. If there is a fee, the amount will vary depending on several factors, including the number of years of experience an expert witness might have accumulated testifying in court, the time involved in the case and the region in which a trial is being conducted. Expert witness services might be based on a formal fee structure, such as a rate per hour, day or half-day. An attorney might have to pay an upfront retainer fee, which is either a fixed sum or a percentage of the total fee, once a witness is selected.

As part of the process to find an expert witness, an attorney might hold meetings leading up to a trial to prepare the prospects for court. A mock trial might be conducted as a practice run. In this situation, the attorney might cross-examine a potential expert witness to be sure that he or she does not become rattled during questioning.

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