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Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

Techniques to Improve Communication

Most technical, professional and scientific fields boast a text or series of books that constitute the definitive text for that field. Experienced trial lawyers will regularly ask the forensic expert for such texts. If the lawyer does not ask for this material, the expert should take the initiative and provide it. The attorney should provide the expert with sufficient information about the judicial process, and the expert's role in it, so that the expert will be effective during testimony.

Timely communication is almost as important as clarity. The expert's verbal or written report will be due at a certain time, and it is important to meet this deadline. If the attorney does not lay out a timetable for the procedures and steps involved, the expert should create one. (See Module 10: Pretrial).

Experts must respond promptly to requests for information and progress reports. The expert's professional reputation will be enhanced by excellent professional service.

The main points at which the expert will need to communicate with counsel are:   

  • Writing an engagement letter to counsel, in response to counsel's initial statement of engagement, that conveys an understanding of the assignment.
  • Creating a preliminary report of initial findings.
  • Drafting interrogatories, requests for production of materials for court, and deposition questions.
  • Preparing materials for the deposition, using working hypotheses to focus on the main points, and anticipating questions from opposing counsel.
  • Preparing a final report.
  • Preparing testimony and materials for the court trial.
  • Developing the direct examination questions.
  • Helping prepare for cross-examination.
  • Giving expert testimony at the trial.
  • Providing other trial assistance.

At each of these points, the expert should confirm with counsel, either verbally or in writing, that the expert understands the information and expectations. The expert may ask counsel to provide the same assurances. Active listening is an excellent way to ensure an accurate understanding.

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