Preparing experts to testify should begin during the auditioning process. By the time you have to designate expert witnesses under CCP §§2034.210-2034.310, you should have determined whether the selected experts
- will have jury appeal,
- can respond to instructions,
- can explain their areas of expertise clearly to the jury, and
- can stand up well to cross-examination.
Assume that the expert may need several days of intensive work before meeting with you to prepare for testifying. When you set up an appointment for a preparation session, tell the expert what work you expect the expert to have completed by the meeting, e.g., reading materials, completing tests, and thinking through all important aspects of the case.
A useful strategy is to divide the expert preparation process into procedural and substantive aspects, prepare checklists for each of these two areas, and then check off items as they’re accomplished. This not only simplifies preparation of the expert but also reduces the risk of overlooking an important aspect of preparation.
Some experts like to receive a copy of a preparation checklist so they can use it to make sure that they have completed all their tasks. If you do this, add detailed information to the checklists, e.g., the address of the courthouse, a list of all exhibits to be prepared, and a list of documents to be reviewed.
Here are checklists to get you started:
___ Location of deposition or trial; what to wear
___ Purpose of expert’s testimony at deposition or trial
___ Deposition or trial procedures, e.g., where to sit, questions by judge or jurors
___ Objections; how to respond; areas on which you recommend that expert not testify at deposition or trial
___ Which parties and attorneys will be there; their interest in the litigation
___ Hypothetical questions
___ Habits and idiosyncrasies of other attorneys who will be at deposition or trial
___ Avoiding arguments with other counsel
___ Expert’s compensation
___ Expert’s qualifications
___ Nature of expert’s assignment
___ Materials consulted or relied on; every document expert should review before testifying
___ Attorney-client or work product problems
___ Refreshing recollection
___ Expert’s file contents; what to bring to deposition or trial; what not to bring
___ Work already performed on case; work to be performed on case; opinions reached and bases for them
___ Inconsistencies and how explained
___ Anticipating scope of opposing counsel’s examination or cross-examination of expert
___ Help expert plan relevant experiments, exhibits, and demonstrative evidence that expert will bring to deposition or trial; view them before they are presented
___ Review how expert will explain technical concepts and language
___ Go over actual questions that are similar to those that will be asked on direct examination at trial
___ Ask expert his or her view of opposing experts, what their testimony will probably be at deposition or trial, and the strengths and weaknesses of their testimony
___ Have expert educate you on any technical concepts on which you are still unclear
___ If desired, have jury consultant work with expert to improve expert’s presentation
You’ll get discussion on each of the points on this checklist in CEB’s California Expert Witness Guide, chapter 12. Also check out CEB’s California Trial Practice: Civil Procedure During Trial, chapter 5, on preparing witnesses for trial.
CEB also has an excellent program on this subject: Preparing and Examining Expert Witnesses: Reports, Depositions and Cross-Examination, available On Demand.
Related CEB blog posts:
- What Makes an Expert an Expert?
- Checklist for When You’re Late for the Important Expert Witness Disclosure Date
- 5 Steps to Preparing an Expert Witness to Do Battle
- Expert Advice: An Expert’s Tips on What to Look for in an Expert Witness
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