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Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

Getting Started: The Action Plan

Circle Graph of an Action Plan. The steps include: 'Getting Started', 'Develop Alternate Hypothesis', 'Survey Applicable Literature', 'Review His or Her Private Files', 'Develop One or More Action Plans'
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

Often, the most difficult part of any task is getting started. The expert should complete four basic tasks when approaching a new assignment: 

  • Develop alternative hypotheses.
  • Survey applicable literature.
  • Review his or her private files.
  • Develop one or more action plans.

"Action plan" is a catch-phrase for an organized way to break a large project into steps and sub-steps. It is an easy way to track progress and identify what needs to be done.

Many public and private experts follow some type of procedure for tracking work effort through individual assignments. Attorneys sometimes use tracking systems they have developed. Labs typically have tracking procedures in place.

Other experts use schedules, notes describing items that require followup, and checklists. Some experts use a standard procedure, and others do so more informally or when circumstances require it.

In situations where action plans have been used, cases are usually ready for trial on time. The chance of a successful result is significantly increased when all parties take a well-organized, pragmatic approach to the project. Because some forensic assignments are massive, the task must sometimes be broken into manageable parts.

If the action plan is prepared by the attorney, it may be a work product — the lawyer's own thought processes — and should receive very limited distribution. As such, it may be privileged and not discoverable. Without the attorney work-product blanket of protection, the action plan may be discoverable.

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