In today’s world of increasingly complex litigation, attorneys are calling on expert witnesses ever more frequently to provide critical insights both in and out of the courtroom — and the way that attorneys seek, retain, and work with those expert witnesses is evolving to meet ever-changing demands.
We recently launched a survey to uncover some of the current trends in expert witness usage. We surveyed over 1,000 trial attorneys across practice areas and asked about their general expert usage, their preferences when seeking experts, and their methods for locating the ideal expert witness. Here are some fascinating insights we discovered across the board.
The Volume of Expert Witness Needs Varies Considerably
The data shows that attorneys’ expert needs vary as greatly as the types of cases that can be litigated. 41% of attorneys report that 10-30% of their cases have involved expert witness support over the last 5 years. An additional 1 out of 5 attorneys report that 70-90% of their cases required experts over the past 5 years. 1 out of 10 attorneys always calls on expert witness support for their casework.
Expert Witness Usage Is Consistently On The Rise
While over half (55%) of attorneys say that their expert usage has remained the same over the past 5 years, an additional 1 out of 3 reported an increased need for expert witnesses in the past 5 years. The majority of attorneys, 94% to be exact, expect their expert needs to stay the same or increase over the next 1-2 years.
Attorneys Are More Likely To Retain Experts To Testify
According to the survey data, attorneys are more likely to retain experts to testify rather than to advise in a consultative capacity. 8% of attorneys always need testifying experts whereas only 3% of attorneys always need consultative experts. 40% of attorneys call on experts to testify for 10-20% of their cases. 46% of attorneys call on experts to testify on 10-20% of cases. Only 13% of attorneys never need testifying experts. On the other hand, 20% of attorneys never need consultative experts.
Attorneys Prefer Experts With Litigation Experience — But Not Too Much
A resounding 91% of attorneys prefer to retain experts with some litigation experience with 43% preferring experts that have 11-20 cases already under their belt. However, an expert’s desirability drops significantly after they have worked on 20 or more cases. Only 18% of attorneys are interested in working with experts who have previously worked on 21-50 cases, and only 7% of attorneys will hire an expert with 50 or more cases under their belt. It appears attorneys are sensitive to the ‘hired gun’ bias associated with experts who appear to provide testimony for a living.
Medical Expert Witnesses Are The Highest In Demand
Not surprisingly, medical expert witnesses rank the highest in-demand, with 60% of attorneys surveyed reporting that they most frequently hire medical experts. An additional 35% of attorneys most frequently require financial experts, and 26% most frequently retain engineering experts. Other expert specialties that ranked among the highest retained include forensics, construction, legal, technology, and skilled trades.
It Takes Time To Find The Right Expert
While 52% of attorneys retain an expert within 48 hours, the majority of these attorneys are sourcing their experts through colleague referrals or existing rosters to save time. Although it is certainly tempting to retain an expert as quickly as possible, finding a qualified, experienced, and knowledgeable expert free of conflicts requires deep digging and comprehensive screening. It is imperative to always look into the expert’s CV and references to confirm that they are in good standing within their field and perform work with a reputable organization. This can help avoid an embarrassing or potentially case-damaging situation if the expert’s stated credentials do not match reality.
A comprehensive screening procedure for each expert candidate should include a review of criminal records, Daubert / Frye challenges, litigation history and transcripts, professional licenses and board certifications, board sanctions and malpractice claims, corporate affiliations, publications and lectures, subject matter expertise, and conflicts.
When it comes to looking for experts, 45% of responding attorneys consult referral services to help them source, vet, and screen candidates. This high percentage of attorneys who have outsourced the process of locating experts demonstrates how time-consuming and tedious of a process finding an expert can be. Of the 55% of attorneys who do not use expert witness referral services, more than half, 52% to be exact, rely on colleague referrals and an additional 25% rely on existing rosters. It appears that most attorneys prefer to use the least time-consuming means to locate expert witnesses.