Hiring an expert witness for your client’s case is analogous to hiring a new employee for the firm. Your business hinges on getting the hire right. Getting it correct can save an awful lot of headaches farther down the road. Whether you have decided to speak with an expert witness before agreeing to take the new case or waited until two weeks before the trial date to find the perfect expert, the first place most attorneys will start is with the CV or “curriculum vitae.”
An attorney can quickly browse the CV, maybe catch a few keys words like “endocrinologist,” “diabetes,” and “director of,” then just as quickly move on to the fee schedule (which may garner a longer stare than the actual CV). With that, its time to get them on the phone and move forward with an interview to discuss the case and feel out the expert. In subsequent articles, we’ll discuss how to source an expert but suffice it to say, if you have made it to the point of speaking with a doctor, your search should be closing in on an expert, correct?
Not so fast, a deeper dive into what the CV is, and what it can tell you before you pick up the phone might be useful in saving time and getting to the best expert for your case more efficiently and effectively. Taking a few extra moments to walk through the expert’s “story” can reveal both credibility or lack of fit for the key aspects of your legal case.
It’s important to understand that courts and attorneys continue to rely heavily on expert witness evidence and opinion, many times without ever having the expert present in the courtroom. But to do so, they must be able to accept that an expert witness is truly an expert. With written expert reports becoming more the norm, the best way for a court to certify an Expert is using the Curriculum Vitae (CV). The CV will serve dual purposes, allowing the attorney to determine if the expert is experienced, respected in the community and able to speak to finite details within standards of care, surgical procedure, etc. while also allowing the courts to quickly determine a broader view on the credibility of the doctor to provide information to the court.
As a professional attorney or doctor, the “CV” or curriculum vitae, is used frequently and is quite a familiar document. The CV is like a résumé and lists the expert’s academic and work experience throughout their career. Writing a detailed and organized CV can help attorneys determine if you’re qualified or the right fit for a particular case.
Let’s take a moment and examine what characteristics distinguish a well-written CV and what information can quickly be analyzed from the document.
Format of the CV –
An overall clean and properly formatted CV is critical. The overall look and feel of the document should be well organized and clear, following established CV standards. Those basics include complete contact information at the top (using personal contact information, including an appropriate and professional email address), lists of educational background and professional appointments, professional affiliations, and publications. If a picture is available, the picture should be a professional headshot and not a selfie from the doctor’s successful fishing trip last June. Any grammatical errors should be a strong consideration for disqualifying an expert.
When is enough, enough?
While it is best practices that a CV be no more than three pages (ideally 2), assuring the CV isn’t filled with too much “fluff” will help make it an impactful insight into the expert and their career focuses. The details are important for identifying the right expert for the case, and you’ll be certain there are no potential issues that exist in “gaps” or “holes” in an expert’s career track exist. Conversely, too much additional details not only do little to help the court understand the expert’s credentials regarding the key legal aspects of a case but can on occasion, provide opposing counsel a valuable resource for impeaching the expert, if not reviewed carefully.
Goldilocks CV considerations – Too much information, not enough information or just right?
Seek out and find the info on the CV that is most relevant to your case. On occasions, the expert will have a few different CVs, each highlighting a specific area or aspect of their experience. One issue sometimes encountered is the failure of the expert witness to narrow the information provided to matters that are relevant to the dispute at hand, either directly or by way of background. Lists of nonessential speaking engagements and publications in which the expert has written and details of school achievements and personal interests may help speak to the expert’s endeavors and activities within his career field though not necessarily having a direct correlation to the key aspects of the case at hand.
Although brevity can help keep a CV from getting too diluted, it must not be at the expense of the CV’s purpose, to demonstrate the Expert’s qualification and experience for the case in question. In the pursuit of brevity and impact within the CV, important experience and affiliations shouldn’t get ignored. Gaps in the record must be identified and if not explained on the CV, should be discussed with the expert and addressed before trial, as with any damaging info that could come out during testimony.
Let’s be clear-
The use of short statements where possible, rather than lists (for example, providing the number of papers published and titles of publications concerned relating to a subject area, rather than reciting full reference details for each relevant to the instant case); A careful review of the line items on a CV can reveal impeachable information. Be cautious of CV’s making excessive or subjective claims…be it a statement like “world’s leading, preeminent doctor in…” or exaggerations within the publications section. If you don’t notice, the opposing council will.
Experience directly related to the aspects of a case should be recent, relevant and practical. At the most basic level, the CV must communicate the expert’s qualifications and experiences for the case specifics and key legal considerations. The expert did not create their CV to fit your case; you need to work to make sure the case fits the expert’s CV.
When a medical expert prepares a CV to present as an Expert Medical Witness, they will typically provide as wide a breadth of experience and knowledge as possible. You should carefully consider the particular case, how likely it is to require direct testimony of the expert, key legal/medical aspects of the case and whether a reworked and narrowed CV would assist the court and finders of fact in establishing the expert’s credibility and knowledge in the areas you desire credibility.
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