- Understand your role in the Dispute Resolution process.
The formal requirements for and guidance to an Expert Witness may vary according to jurisdiction. In Court and Arbitration proceedings in England and Wales the Expert’s primary duty is to assist the Court or Tribunal, which duty overrides any obligation to their instructing/paying party.
Independence and professional integrity are essential characteristics of an Expert Witness.
- Obtain clear instructions.
Understand the scope of the services required and the timescale for the production of reports. Bear in mind that these instruction may change as the matter develops. Ensure that you know who is paying your bills and the billing process.
- Ensure that you are free and competent to provide the required opinions.
Ensure that you are not conflicted from accepting the instruction and that you have the capacity and competence to provide the required Expert evidence. Do not let commercial considerations colour your judgement as to whether or not to accept an instruction.
- Maintain an open mind throughout your involvement with the matter.
Let your assessment of the evidence determine your opinions: don’t settle on an opinion and then seek the evidence to support it!
- Be thorough and pay close attention to detail.
Don’t take short cuts, even though you may have dealt with similar matters in the past: small details may make a significant difference to your opinions. When you have done all that you can, look again: there is always something else to be done!
- When writing your report, clearly separate the evidence, your analysis of the evidence and your opinions arising from that evidence.
It is the Court or Tribunal’s role to establish matters of fact, however you will need to set out the matters on which you have relied in reaching your opinions. Ensure that your opinions are based on the evidence, not a theoretical counsel of perfection.
- Ensure that you address all relevant issues.
Do not fail to address matters that are unhelpful to your instructing party’s case.
- Be ready to revise your opinions if additional evidence or considerations become available to you or if you have made any mistakes in your analysis of the evidence.
This links to keeping an open mind. Be open and prompt in correcting any errors
- Prior to giving oral evidence, ensure that you are familiar with your own report, that of the opponent’s experts and the evidence on which your opinions are based.
Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance! Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!
- When giving oral evidence, aim to give direct and concise responses to the Court/Tribunal.
You are not there to deliver a lecture demonstrating your knowledge of a particular topic. Also speak directly to the Judge / Tribunal, not to the advocate.
- Don’t take it personally!
Criticism of your expertise and your evidence is a routine part of establishing the credibility, or otherwise, of your evidence. They (probably) don’t hate you!
- Ask for help if unsure how to proceed.
If in doubt, ask! Fellow members of BEWA may be able to assist or put you in touch with someone who can assist.