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Questions to Ask when Hiring an Expert

When hiring an expert for a consulting project or expert witness testimony in a legal case, it is important to ask the right questions, in the right order, to obtain relevant information to make the best choice.

We asked CECON Vice President and placement specialist Barry Bowen, as well as one of our long-time consultants, a former FDA Science Branch Manager, what they believe the most important questions are to ask potential candidates:

  1. Do you have any potential conflicts of interest with any of the parties, such as previous employers? This could include cases you have been involved with, etc.
  1. After describing the case: Can you handle this case?
  1. Are you available to assist during the required timeframe?
  1. What is your experience with the subject matter? This should include discussions of relevant and related background in the subject matter, such as chemistry, clinical studies, device production, packaging, CMO, CRO, quality, regulatory compliance, etc.
  1. Do you have a tendency to support client technical views for legal cases? Or are you able to be objective and unbiased?

  2. What is your previous experience as an expert witness? Describe your activities surrounding consulting, reporting, deposition, and trial, including appearing on camera.

The answers to these questions will help the hiring manager select the very best expert consultant for the project.

 

Founded in 1985, The CECON Group specializes in providing science and engineering consultants and expert witnesses. Consultants in our global network typically have more than 25 years of experience in more than 200 disciplines, including pharmaceutical development and regulatory compliance, chemical processing and safety, biotechnology,medical devices, nanotechnology, and polymers and coatings.

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The Best Way to Source Consultants/ Legal Expert Witnesses: Social Media or Placement Firm?

5 Advantages of (and 1 Misconception about) Using a Consultant Placement Firm over Searching SocialMedia to Hire a Consultant

 With everyone on Linked In and websites so easy to build, it is easier than ever to search for a client or expert on the internet and skip the “middleman” or expert placement firm when hiring a consultant. But should you? Is it really cheaper? 

What are the advantages to using an expert placement firm?

  1. Vetting. Did the expert whose profile looks so appealing on social media really attend that school? Does he/she really have those skills? A placement firm can vet their experts.
  1. Additional experts are available if needed. If you need multiple experts or additional experts in a complementary field,  a placement firm can be “one stop shopping.” Your “rep” will already know the details of your project and the expertise you already have, so you don’t need to start over multiple times to engage additional help. You will also just get one invoice, which streamlines paperwork for you.
  1. Filtering: Having so many choices of experts can be confusing. A placement firm with experience in a specific practice area is able to help you discern which of a long list of experts is the one who meets your needs. Experts may use a variety of terms in their resumes or websites, whose relevance may be difficult to interpret for someone not in that field. A placement firm can send you a filtered list of candidates.
  1. Expertise discernement: What type of expertise is actually needed for your job? It may be different than you think.

In one of CECON’s successful expert placements, a plaintiff’s attorney sought a pharmaceutical consultant with a specific skill set from our expert database. After discussing the case with the client and getting more details, the CECON Project Manager suggested that an expert with a slightly different background would be more appropriate. An expert on regulatory issues and innovative/generic drug labeling was engaged, per CECON’s suggestion. The outcome was a judgment was for the plaintiffs, with a $500 Million Punitive Award.

  1. Scope definition. A placement firm whose client service reps have expert experience themselves can often help define and narrow the scope of your job.

For example, CECON Project Managers have helped clients define technical specifications for engineering projects, then sourced the necessary consulting team to complete the projects. If you are uncertain about the full scope and hidden tasks involved with a project, an experienced technical project manager can help you.

And, the one misconception: that fees will be higher. This is not always the case. Fees may be comparable to hiring an expert directly when sourcing a consultant through a placement firm. Because placement firms provide a higher volume of work to a consultant than one client will, they may get a lower rate, which compensates for the placement fee. Placement firms usually understand market pricing and will work to make the net end fee to the user competitive.

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6 Tips for Controlling Costs When Engaging a Consultant or Expert Witness

The right expert witnesses can be a key component to helping an attorney win a case. A great deal of attention is paid to finding and contracting with a good expert. While hourly rates may seem high and a large number of hours may be needed for an expert to review the facts of a case and provide a meaningful written opinion, there are ways you can manage the engagement of an expert to keep costs at a minimum.

  1. Don’t give your expert more documents to read than necessary– this can drive up charges if the consultant has to spend time reading unnecessary documents
  1. Don’t lead expert opinion. While you may have a case strategy, leading or influencing the report can place the expert in an ethical dilemma if he disagrees with your conclusions, require additional research to support, and add to time spent on the case. If you have selected the right expert, allow them to present their professional opinion to you without a requested outcome.

Presenting your case strategy when interviewing a potential expert can let you know if the expert is likely to be on your side, without influencing him. If the expert feels as if his/her opinion has been influenced, he/she may be required to disclose this in court, which may hurt your case.

  1. Be easy to contact.This will eliminate delays while the expert is waiting to have questions answered and time charges for multiple contacts.
  1. Pay your bill on time. This keeps the consultant focused on the job rather than on following up on payment.
  1. Make sure the scope of the project or case is clearly defined.  Being on the same page from the start of the project will help insure that your expert or consultant is working on the tasks most important to your case or project.
  1. Communicate frequentlyto insure the project is on track and that key deadlines and trial dates are on everyone’s calendar.

 

For more hands on tips on managing expert witnesses, see our three part series“Guidelines for Your Expert Witness” and other Expert Witness Management Tips on this blog. This series is also available as a Whitepaper; call our offices or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to request a copy.

 

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