Being an Expert Witness; the other 25%

Expert witness, by our very nature, should know what we’re doing, but what about the surrounding support, the experience the solicitor receives from instruction to report?  

Here we examine the importance of the organisation that both precedes an expert performing their role, whether examination or reporting, together with the input during and after their involvement.

Having spent many decades dealing with expert witnesses we have found that the success depends on three aspects; the initial instruction, the expert themselves, and the reporting.  Arguably the expert witness report itself, the ‘product’ is the most important aspect to get right, but for efficiency (and thus profitability) and to ensure repeat business, the other 25% is important to get right.

In this article we look at the instruction, support during the case and what we’ve termed the report ‘aftermath’ .  All administrative roles essential to the success of an expert witness.

The Instruction

The ability to instruct an expert swiftly and easily, preferably in one go, is imperative to providing a great initial customer experience.  I recall some experts providing an Excel spreadsheet, with a huge table of questions, the majority of which were irrelevant to the case in question.   Tabbing through jumped illogically from question to answer space.  These were then emailed back & we never really knew whether they’d received them or not, for days… the experience was pretty poor.

With so many great customer experiences to be found on line we thought we could take inspiration and do better.  We developed a one touch ability for a solicitor or client to instruct directly from their case management system (CMS) saving them considerable time.  Creating automations to ensure we had the salient details and nothing surplus and then linking smartly to client’s CMS systems such as Proclaim or any system that accepts APIs (ie most built in the last few years).  We made the experience as easy as ordering an Uber.

The system allows solicitors to see pretty much what we see, the status of their instruction, handlers, costs, ETA for the report, management information, etc; pretty much anything they need to know.

As any expert witness will tell you, there are often idiosyncrasies with cases, so it is imperative to have human input.  The expert is expensive and is best placed doing his specialist work; it would be frivolous to have them answering non-expertise or administrative questions.  That’s where a well trained support team come into play.  They should be empowered to deal with enquiries, quotes and common queries raised.  They should be able to estimate roughly how long a report is expected to take or cost in some cases, so they can be a proactive help to the client, ushering them through the process.

The Reporting Aftermath

Once the expert has compiled their report, we’ve often seen it sent directly, which can lead to silly errors.  A mix of autonomous software and humans can be used to quality assure the report, ensure that it is billed accurately and is sent to the correct people. 

In some cases the primary data will be delivered direct to client’s CMS via API connections, saving time & ensuring 100% accuracy.  This also assists with some queries, supplemental questions & often gives the client the ability to pay online.

Again a well trained support team is imperative to field minor queries from the expert & deal with any administration queries.  They should have clear and honest communication with the expert and it helps greatly when they have a decent understanding of the expert’s subject.

The support team should be able to organise joint reports with other experts and liaise with solicitors or barristers to book the expert into various Court hearings, including the terms required.

Above all they should provide an excellent customer experience to the expert’s clients, whilst fully supporting the expert’s requirements.

Summing Up

To some degree the roles surrounding the expert witness have an element of business development.  They have the ability, in some cases to upsell products, and certainly to ensure the customer experience meets (or hopefully exceeds) their expectations.  Solidifying the client / expert relationship gives both parties additional confidence in the supply chain.

The expert is entirely responsible for the contents of his report, including his various obligations to the Civil Procedure Rules and the Court, however it is the way the case is dealt with from cradle to grave, the supportive administration that enhances the client’s experience this increasing the likelihood of future instructions.

The expert’s report is of primary importance but great customer service is the icing on the cake.

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