Working with an expert witness is easy when you’re looking at ‘The Office’…
Written by: Stephen Gomez
Expert witnesses’ roles in litigation are evolving, especially as different items in the law become more and more specialized. While expert witnesses are used to explain factual elements of a case, like any purveyor of information (a professor, lecturer, or scientist), the method and manner in which they present this information can be vital. Expert witnesses, however, are like the rest of us. They have different quirks and personalities. When looking at the different experts that one can use, understanding them, and how to work with them, is one way to maximize the benefit of the relationship. To explain this point, we at The Expert Institute, still mourning the conclusion of ‘The Office,’ listed character-types from the show which illustrate the different “expert-types” that you may encounter when working with an expert witness.
Jim: The Talented Underachiever
- Charismatic and relatable
- Works well under pressure
- May be difficult to find published work
- Lazy if disinterested
Working with a Jim:
Due to his chronically slacker attitude, a Jim-type may not have a vast portfolio of published works, which presents difficulties when trying to prove him/her as a qualified expert. A witness of this type is a good public speaker and able to read a room well, and extensive guidance on testifying would not be needed. The best way to approach an expert like this is to stay in contact and keep him/her engaged. If you do not actively explain and detail the specifics of the case prior to the trial, a Jim-type may do the bare minimum amount of work, knowing that they are likely smart enough to explain their methodology “off-the cuff” during deposition or testimony. However, if you keep him/her interested and challenged, then he/ she has the potential to rise to the occasion and perform wonderfully.
Pam: The Sweetheart
- Good at articulating thoughts and being reasonable
- Very supportive and organized
- Does not like to be the center of attention
Working with Pam:
A Pam-type is very reliable and will be very involved and helpful during pretrial preparations. Her/ his organization skills and ability to recall previous interactions can prove extremely valuable when there are complex or extensive works to go through during discover. For example, when litigation involves complex financial transactions, like those found in the operation of hedge funds, a hedge fund expert witness (link: http://www.theexpertinstitute.com/hedge-fund-expert-witnesses/) who can remain organized is critical to adequately explain the specific elements to which they are an expert on.
A Pam-type tends to give one-word answers and loaded silences, so you might have to encourage her/ him to speak up during testimony. When they do speak assertively, however, they can be very convincing, passionate, and reasonable.
Dwight: The Machine
- Confident, convincing and logical presenter
- Will be very involved form start to finish
- Not good at reading the room
- Not sensitive to others’ feelings
Working with a Dwight:
Dwight-types will want to be very involved and pour all of their resources and effort into a case, because a Dwight-type never wants to be on the losing side. This dominant, and at times, pushy, attitude may turn both you and the jury off. You should coach him/ her to be more open during their testimony because presentation, and the ability to connect with a jury, can be critical when providing information. This is especially true if the subject matter of their testimony relates to something that the jury had not encountered before. To work successfully with a Dwight-type, you have to establish yourself as the leader from the start and be very clear about the things that you need from them. With the structure this provides, he/she will be able to deliver.
Angela: Straight-laced Striver
- Reliable and hardworking
- Looks the part
- Not flexible
Working with an Angela:
She/he will put in the work and expects you to meet their standards. Angela-types are relatively inflexible and expect everything to be prepared, beforehand. This is both a blessing and a curse because no one wants surprises midtrial, but she/he probably will not be able to adapt and think on their feet if one does appear during the course of litigation. Also, she/he may be stubborn and averse to criticism in their presentation skills. To work successfully with this type of expert, just keep pushing your most reasonable notes, and she/he will usually acquiesce. While being inflexible (and, at times, severe), they are rarely unreasonable. Additionally, an Angela-type looks and behaves the part of an expert, which may prove beneficial in how the jury perceives their testimony.
Michael: Blundering Wunderkind
- Confident presenter, loves to be the center of attention
- Good reputation
Working with a Michael:
You will not have any trouble getting this expert witness to testify enthusiastically; this is a born performer who relishes being the center of attention. This type of expert will impress you on paper, with a great reputation, relevant experience, and history of published works. Michael-types, however, can be unpredictable, and can become flustered during cross-examination. To work with a Michael-type, you have to find ways to bring out the hidden brilliance, while adequately preparing the expert to fully explain their expertise to the jury. For example, if the expert has experience as a professor, play to his/her strengths by using a white board in the presentation, providing the witness with a familiar way of communicating relevant information to the jury.