Both athletes and actors not only perform but practice their skills. They seek out the best coaches to mentors and assist their progress. It is a recognised aspect of leaders in industry too. Many have achieved success through mentoring with clear direction.
However, in medicine, there is a very different scenario. Some of those acting as expert witnesses, who undoubtedly have special skills allowing them to act in that role, enter the process without learning the parameters that are involved in that process. Mentoring is not considered and they often learn “on the job”.
The legal system, though, is an adversarial process and unless the expert witness understands that and has training in aspects of their role, there are potential severe pitfalls. Knowledge of the Legal system that they are involved in and how they differ between different parts of the United Kingdom is necessary if an individual becomes a national expert. Understanding how to structure their report, including the legal tests that are applicable, together with how to deal with a joint statement, and how to deal with cross examination are skills that are often reactively learnt rather than proactively developed with a mentor.
There are expert associations such as the Expert Witness Institute and Academy of Experts that provide training. There are also commercial companies who offer tuition with medico-legal experts only or the whole gamut of expert disciplines.
Such training may help the expert gain the hard skills of being an expert witness there are many other skills that help the expert have a successful practice as an expert witness.
These skills, such as managing your time to meet deadlines, are imperative for a successful practice. Understanding up to date information about how the Courts are responding to medico-legal cases is also a priority for success. Courts are becoming stricter in making parties adhere to deadlines and applying sanctions that are not being met.
Making time to undertake expert work can be a challenge, particularly when fitting it into a schedule of other work that the expert is committed to, In many cases, the novice expert realises that a secretary or Personal Assistant is necessary to meet deadlines but without a clear understanding of the skills required in those assistants, often too much time can be spent educating rather than delegating.
Employing people also has implications and again understanding this is a skill the expert has to master.
As I mentioned in a previous article being an expert witness is a business rather than a charity so working out how to price and invoice for your work is important. Knowing what others are charging and how can ensure that you are priced “in” your market rather than “out”.
I spent some years after starting my expert witness practice before I understood all the business aspects of running it.
I wish I had access to resources and help with doing that. I am now in a position to offer those either starting out as an expert witness or others having problems with the business aspects of a practice with practical support.