We have discussed the use of outside experts to help defend our clients. The following is a description of how these experts get involved with our firm and our clients.
When a client comes to us with a case that will require the use of specialized persons or firms, we spend a lot of time talking this over with our client. Expert witnesses must be paid for their work, time, travel, etc. and these expenses are picked up by our client. Any law firm that pays an expert's fee opens themselves, and the expert, to questions regarding ethics, proper handling of a client's case, and if the expert's information is truly reliable/credible.
We have a number of people and firms we have used as experts, in past cases, who have shown integrity, ethics, and proper case management are top priorities. These are the same values we hold dear when it comes to our clients. When we have a case in which an expert is needed, we contact the expert, immediately, to alert them to our case.
Once contacted, the expert sends us a Letter of Engagement. This letter acknowledges the expert has been contacted to work a case, spells out fees, and identifies to which areas the expert would testify, if the case goes to trial.
Our firm reviews this letter to make sure everything is in order, discusses the letter with our client, and once our client gives the OK, our client hires the expert.
While the expert is hired by the client, the expert relays all found info to our firm so that we may again, review and present the info to our client at a future meeting. Our clients are told this, prior to the expert's hiring, to ensure there are no miscommunications, later.
Once the expert begins work on a case, we have no contact with them until their final report is filed. This ensures the expert is not working under any pressure, from us, to come up with a certain finding. Whatever findings the expert(s) report is what we use in our case. These findings may be good, bad, or indifferent for our client and we will revise our defense strategy accordingly.
Every case and every client is different. Before deciding to use an outside expert, we have many long discussions with our clients about the benefits and pitfalls this choice could bring. If our client decides his/her case warrants an outside opinion, we are prepared to act.
By Richard Mahan, Criminal Investigator