June 20, 2013

Interview Techniques That May Alienate Your Expert

When considering hiring a technical expert or consultant, most lawyers want an interview beforehand. Usually these interviews are straightforward, but on a few occasions the lawyer is either trying to extract free information or has unreasonable expectations. Experienced consultants will recognize these situations and, in some cases, may take themselves out of the running. Police yourself for the practices below:

"Could you work with us a couple of hours to see if there is a match? The consultation could last hundreds of hours after we get past this first step."

Consultants understand the benefit of this approach and in some cases will provide free consultation for the benefit of a larger reward, but they can typically assess the potential of a case, especially in some practice areas, so be sure this approach is sincere; otherwise, it will be exposed quickly.

"What approach would you use?" or "Where would you go to get the cheapest source to do XXX?"

It is fair to ask how an expert would approach your issue, but asking for specific details and low-priced options during the interview may send up signals.

"Can you assure me (during the phone interview you) that you will support my position no matter what the other side has or comes up with?"

While this question may seem ridiculous to experienced litigators, consultants do hear this once in a while. This issue becomes problematic if the other side saves its big gun arguments until after the consultant submits a report. A professional consultant will only work on a best efforts basis. Timing of the report can be critical, so that mid-course adjustments can be made, if possible.

"Can you promptly tell me if a patent is valid?"

Sometimes this information cannot be quickly found in the literature and requires much time-consuming analysis, especially with a complex technical patent. Those consultants skilled in the art may be able to make reasonable estimates, but even they cannot always be precise. Asking for quick answers can be a flag.  

If you think you are interviewing potentially high-quality consultants for your case, make sure your interview approach is reasonable. Otherwise, you may lose them.
 

The CECON Group, Inc. has been providing technical expert witnesses to attorneys in science, engineering, and other technical fields for over 25 years. CECON has experts in more than 200 technical areas, such as Pharmaceutical, Chemistry, Composites, Bio-Technology, Regulatory Compliance, Medical Devices, and many more.