In divorce cases in Dallas or, really anywhere in Texas, it is sometimes necessary to hire a professional to offer expert witness testimony on a subject. An expert is someone who is qualified through education or experience on a subject unknown to lay persons and whose opinion would be helpful to the factfinder (judge or jury). Examples of expert witnesses often used in divorce or family law cases include psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, CPAs, business valuation professionals, realtors, appraisers, or sometimes lawyers.
So how can a lawyer or litigant know if the expert is a good one? Here’s 10 tips for hiring a good expert:
- Does the expert’s experience and training match the topic about which they are to opine?
- Has the expert witness given conflicting opinions about the topic in prior cases?
- Does the expert have a history of success on the topic?
- Does the expert have a history and reputation for integrity?
- Does the expert require sufficient time to develop his opinions? Asked another way, did the expert take the case on short notice and hurry through his analysis?
- Has the expert followed common procedures, assessments, or protocols in conducting the evaluation to form the opinions?
- Do the conclusions reached have strong foundational basis?
- Does the expert get hired by many different firms or tend to work for only a few firms exclusively?
- Does the expert’s professional affiliations go beyond just membership in relevant organizations?
- Does the expert’s writings and research show more than just length of time in the profession?
Having an unprofessional expert can cause the factfinder (judge or jury) to view not only the expert’s opinions but also the client’s entire case in a negative light. The purpose of an expert witness is to strengthen the client’s case, so it is worth it to hire a high quality expert witness.
Hat tip to ABA Section of Family Law’s Fall 2014 issue of Family Advocate for their article “Spotting the Hired Gun” by Stanley Clawar as the inspiration for this article.