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How to Prepare Your Expert Witness for a Deposition and Testimony

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Expert witnesses can be a key element in a variety of lawsuits, from financial experts in securities litigation to medical experts in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Some experts have been put through the proverbial litigation ringer many times and operate as experts for a living. Other experts are newer to litigation and may simply hope that their deep knowledge relating to their profession will carry them through the lawsuit. Do not let the high hopes of your expert or their claims of having been there before lull you into complacency in advance of a deposition or testifying in court. As smart or knowledgeable as your expert may be, they need to be properly prepared for deposition and in-court testimony if they are to be effective and helpful in aiding your side of the case. Below are a few tips for preparing your expert for a deposition. Contact our dedicated and detail-oriented Phoenix court reporters for deposition services throughout the state of Arizona.

Know Your Expert’s Qualifications

You pick an expert because they are an expert. They are a practicing member of their profession; they are published; they went to a good school. If they are to be your expert, you need to go deeper. Taking a deep dive into their qualifications will not only help you establish them as an expert and strengthen their credibility; it will also help you identify and prepare to explain away any perceived weaknesses. You do not want to be blindsided at a deposition when your opponent brings up your brain surgeon flunked college biology. You should look into, for example:

● Employment history
● Educational history
● Grades in school
● Certifications, training courses, continuing education
● Distinguishments or honors
● Memberships and affiliations with professional organizations, past and present
● Major projects in their field
● Experience in the specific field at issue in the matter
● Investigate any gaps in the expert’s CV
● Any disciplinary history, either professional or educational
● Any criminal history
● How many times the expert has been deposed or testified, in both state and federal court

Research the Expert’s Publication History

Many expert witnesses are published in their field. Generally, this is a positive thing; significant publication is a strong indicator that they are a respected member of their field. However, it is vital that you not only discuss your expert’s prior publications with them but that you also look through their publication history for anything that might adversely affect their credibility. They might have published an article 10 years ago that appears to contradict the position they are taking in your matter. They may have had articles that were rejected or debunked for one reason or another, but which should not affect their overall credibility.

Your expert may even have published something on a matter unrelated to why you have called them as an expert, but which strongly supports your opponent’s side in a different aspect of the case; there’s no reason for your expert to know about that aspect of the case and bring it up to you. It is vital that you, as the attorney, are ready for whatever may be brought up at the deposition.

Practice Cross-Examination

To quote boxing great Mike Tyson: Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Your expert may believe that they know their report and all of the underlying facts backward and forward, but nothing can truly prepare a witness for the tricks, attacks, and mind games attorneys use to undermine witnesses. You need to be brutal with your expert, attacking any possible weaknesses in their opinions, their reports, and their qualifications. Try to manufacture perceived inconsistencies to ensure that your expert is ready to look behind a question for any facts being assumed that are not true or not in evidence.

Anything you would do to attack the opposing expert, make sure you do to your own expert in advance of their deposition and their testimony in court. It may be uncomfortable, but it will prepare them for anything that may come, and it will make sure they have the appropriate incentive to stay on top of all of their own material rather than becoming complacent or cocky.

If you need high-quality and seasoned court reporting services in Arizona, contact the Phoenix offices of Ottmar & Associates at 602-485-1488.