How Do I Become a Legal Expert Witness?

Cindy Quarters

A legal expert witness is a person who is qualified to present information or opinions in court in a specific field, due to the amount of experience, skill, knowledge, education or training the person has in that area. The federal court system has established Rule 702 as a part of the Federal Rules of Evidence, to detail who may be an expert witness. To become a legal expert witness it is necessary to first meet the requirements for being an expert in a subject, then make that known to lawyers who might have need of such help in court.

A legal expert witness must have a great deal of education and experience in the field.
A legal expert witness must have a great deal of education and experience in the field.

Becoming an accepted expert in a given field generally requires many years of education and work in that field, so as to establish expertise. People who are new to a job or newly graduated from college are rarely considered experts in any field. To become a legal expert witness, it is important to establish a record of proven ability in a field before attempting to offer an opinion in court. Since court is an adversarial process, anyone who lacks experience but testifies anyway is likely to find opposing counsel attacking any statements he or she makes due to the insufficient level of experience.

The final determination of whether to accept a person as an expert witness is up to the judge.
The final determination of whether to accept a person as an expert witness is up to the judge.

A person who is an expert in any field should not have a problem if he or she decides to become a legal expert witness. It is important that an expert witness be able to evaluate any facts and data presented to him or her and apply reliable, accepted methods and principles to that data in order to reach a conclusion. A witness who cannot do that, even though an expert in a field, will find that he or she has trouble when trying to become a legal expert witness.

If a person has expertise in a specific area and wants to become a legal expert witness, the most important thing to do is to let it be known that he or she is available to offer expert testimony in court. The best way to do this is to contact as many attorneys as possible to let them know all essential and relevant information, including area of expertise and availability. The court will ask for a detailed curriculum vitae (CV) covering all related jobs and education in the field of expertise. An expert will also be required to produce a list of publications he or she has authored in the preceding decade, information on all other cases where the person has served as an expert witness in the past four years, and the payment being offered in the current case. The final determination of whether to accept a person as an expert witness is up to the judge.

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