“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.” – Benjamin Franklin
Be The Organized One
An organized Expert Witness is a better Expert Witness, and better Expert Witness is more likely to be hired, earn an expanded scope, and please their clients. More than ever, expert witnesses for venture capital and private company matters are managing hundreds or thousands of documents. How do the best expert witnesses keep track of all the evidence?
Your Attorney-Clients Have a lot on their Minds
There has been much written about the relationship between Expert Witnesses and attorney-clients. One of my favorite pieces was written by Steven Babitsky, Esq. of Seak Expert Witness Directory called “The Biggest Mistakes Lawyers Make When Dealing with Expert Witnesses.” It is a great list, and it includes several cautionary advisories for all Expert Witnesses. In a perfect world, we would never have to face those big mistakes, but circumstances rarely allow for ideal client engagements. Many times, attorneys are rushed and managing hundreds of issues in which Expert Witnesses are only a subset.
Run a Professional Process
You are not a victim. If you run a professionally managed process, much can be done to mitigate the “big mistakes” and add value to your client-attorneys. They will appreciate you all the more if you show that you can make an attorney’s day just a little bit easier. One challenge implicit in many of the issues cited in the Babitsky Blog and one entirely in your control is organization. If you organize, you will help your client. Rely on yourself to stay organized.
Manage Your Evidence
One thing that you can do to be that organized, supportive, and value-adding Expert Witness is to manage documents like a pro. Organizing is more challenging because you want to avoid the creation of newly discoverable materials. If you mark a text in any way, that marked “new” document becomes potentially discoverable in most litigation matters. While the changes might seem innocuous, do not underestimate the ability of antagonistic attorneys. As experienced Expert Witnesses know, even the most seemingly innocent comment, mark, or document name change can be subject to intense scrutiny and willful misinterpretation. Keep your documents clean and unaltered.
Suggested Document Organization Practices
Without modifying documents, here are some practices that Venture Capital Expert Witness has used.
- In your Project Kickoff Questionnaire, make sure you ask what is discoverable. The rules can vary by venue and matter.
- Maintain a Document Request Log, and keep it up-to-date. Only you are responsible for obtaining the materials that you require.
- Use an orderly file structure. Segregate your documents by topic using a Model File Structure, and keep all records in an unaltered state. Do not change file titles, add marginalia (digital or written), or take notes outside of your Expert Witness Report.
- Use Informative Footnotes. You may have hated footnotes in 10th grade, but in the Expert Witness profession, they are a godsend.
- Make any notes directly, and only, in the draft of your Expert Witness Report.
Expert Witnesses in venture capital and private company matters can provide opinions, or they can give opinions with added value. Expert Witnesses offer added value through proper project management. When you add value beyond your Expert Opinion, you will enjoy getting re-hired and referred to new clients.
Comments and thoughts are welcome, below.