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3 Tips to Become an Expert Witness

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. | Last updated on

Are you interested in becoming an expert witness? If you have the requisite background, enjoy controversy, and have a passion for righteousness, this could be the job for you. Here's a few tips to potentially launch your next career, or side-hustle.

1. Beef Up your Qualifications

According to the Federal Rules of Evidence, an expert witness can be anyone with special "knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education." If that sounds broad, you're right! Almost anyone can be qualified as an expert in something, but to be hired, and to be believed by a jury, you need to quantify your qualifications. First, decide on your area of expertise, which will need to be relevant, reliable, and helpful to the hiring party. This can be anything from science to business to gardening, and everything in between. Be very specific and realistic about your expertise.

Once your niche is established, create a list of ways in which you are qualified in the area: degrees, publications, work experience, and if applicable, opportune in which others have relied on your expert opinion, whether formally or informally. Regardless of if you are interviewing for an expert witness opportunity, or giving a deposition, or testifying in front of a jury, this will be one of the first questions asked. If you are deficient in any of these areas, start beefing up on them sooner rather than later.

2. Expect the Unexpected

Before diving head first into this arena, and if you are passionate and righteous you might have already taken the plunge, know what lies ahead. Wages for expert witnesses range from $150 an hour up into the thousands. Yes, this is a wide range, and it depends on the area and depth of your expertise. Hours are based on research, writing, meetings, depositions, courtroom testimony, and sometimes even travel. Remember that you are dealing with lawyers and courtrooms, so expect for solidly-firm dates to get shuffled last minute. This will be best accommodated by those with a flexible schedule, a requirement almost as important as knowledge.

3. Finding That First Job

Like law, expert witness jobs are almost always filled by word of mouth. If you're reading this website, you must have some ties to the legal community. Start with lawyer friends, and ask them if they have any experience in this area. If not, do they have a friend that does? You may not find anyone right out of the gate that is looking for your area of expertise, but litigators are a tight community, and if you make a good impression, your name will eventually float around to someone that is. You can also register with your local bar association, which usually keeps a running name of experts. However, if you are new to the industry, this may not prove as lucrative.

Start making room in your life in case you do get hired. You will need a lot of extra hours to read over documents and attend meetings. Do you have systems in place for this? Daycare? Cleaners? Grocery or meal delivery service? You will get busy fast, and if you truly believe in you area of expertise, your rise in the industry will be fast and furious.

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