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Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

Curriculum Vitae

The expert's curriculum vitae (CV), or résumé, tends to address the past. For the attorney or fact-finder's benefit, the CV suggests the expert's ability to analyze prior events for causes and effects, and his ability to predict a course of activity or conduct in the future. The expert must have experience performing investigations in the lab or the field, testing evidence, gathering facts, and digging out relevant information on the subject under inquiry.

The expert's résumé speaks of the ability to do that kind of careful testing, detailed labor and extensive study. Theoretically, after the concentrated evidence testing and information-gathering effort, solutions will become apparent. Each part of the résumé should be designed to lead to that conclusion. Résumé sections should suggest an ability to wade through the morass of factual data and technical detail to reach supportable conclusions.

Areas of professional emphasis speak to the expert's experience. Special admissions, memberships, and technical or professional ratings suggest excellence. They also suggest that other experts in the field respect the expert's abilities. Special recognitions, honors and awards likewise provide evidence of professional or societal recognition.

The expert's educational history is evidence of his academic inquiry and tenacity, as is any teaching, writing and lecturing experience. The expert's publications demonstrate an ability to gather and process important information and to pass it on to others in an effective way.

A potential outline for the expert's résumé might include these major sections:   

  • Current position or title.
  • Professional education and training.
  • Government and public service.
  • Employment history.
  • Details of continuing education and training.
  • Areas of professional or technical concentration and professional highlights.
  • Honors, ratings, recognitions and licenses.
  • Professional memberships and affiliations.
  • Teaching, lecturing, seminar, workshop or conference presentations.
  • Publications, including books, articles, chapters, and seminar or workshop papers.
  • Expert witness experience.

The expert's CV must be factually accurate in all respects. The expert must resist any temptation to expand credentials beyond absolute facts; the résumé must be correct and up-to-date. Imagine the courtroom chagrin that would attend the exposure of errors in the expert's résumé to cross-examination. Such attacks might involve nonexistent degrees, improperly stated ratings and licenses, undisclosed disciplinary proceedings or suspensions, or plagiarized articles. The consequences can be devastating to the case and to the expert's reputation.

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