When you're involved in a lawsuit, choosing the right litigation support service can sometimes be the key to winning or losing your case. Many law firms have an in-house litigation support team on staff. A growing number of attorneys now outsource this work to independent agencies or private investigators, however. Selecting the support professional who is best for you depends on many factors including the type of case, the level of discovery needed, budgetary restraints, and the company's experience and reputation.
A litigation support service is a critical partner to both attorneys and the parties involved in a case, providing important discovery documents, depositions, research, expert witness testimony, evaluation of damages, and assistance formulating a winning strategy in court. Such companies or individuals are often called on to identify and calculate potential damages in commercial antitrust, breach of contract, bankruptcy, copyright and trademark infringement suits. A litigation support service can also be helpful in gathering evidence and documentation in family law matters such as divorce and child custody disputes.
The first step in choosing the best litigation support professional is to check the company's qualifications, academic training, licensing and accreditations. The second step is verifying the expert's previous experience in cases similar to yours. Find out what specific knowledge the expert has that is relevant to your legal issue. Ultimately, you'll want to select a support professional who is recognized as an authority in the field. If he or she has published books, articles, and dissertations, or is frequently called on to give speeches or expert witness testimony on the subject of litigation, this is typically a good indicator of expertise.
Other factors to consider are the expert's general accessibility; if the support professional is busy with several other clients simultaneously, make certain he or she will have ample time to devote to your case. Ask the expert questions about his or her research techniques and how he or she goes about obtaining documents and information. It is also important to evaluate the expert's objectivity and ability to present testimony that is unbiased and logical, and that does not appear to be advocating one particular viewpoint over another. A litigation support professional, if called on to be an expert witness, must be able to convince a judge and jury of his or her impartiality.
Once you have narrowed down your options to a handful of possible litigation support services, check for possible conflicts of interest. It is critical that the expert have no personal or business ties to either the plaintiffs or defendants. Such relationships can be devastating to your case if evidence of these links is later revealed in court. Check carefully to ascertain if the expert has ever worked with opposing counsel on past cases, or if there are any other potential conflicts that may affect the expert's ability to remain detached and fair. It is also a good idea to check court dockets and find out if the expert has ever been sued before, and what the nature of the litigation was.
Finally, set up a meeting with your attorney and the litigation support service. Evaluate the potential expert's appearance, communication skills, and personality, and ask questions designed to reveal any potential prejudices that could negatively affect the expert's credibility. Have the expert describe past experiences he or she had in similar cases and his or her critical documents or witness testimony that swayed the court in a client's favor. This is also the time to discuss compensation in detail, including any additional fees you should be prepared to pay for the expert's travel, document production, testimony, per diem, and other related expenses.