It’s no secret that many industries have been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, one industry that has done particularly well over the past year is the toy and game industry with over 15% growth. As a result, there continue to be legal battles being fought over toys, consumer products, intellectual property, and inventor claims.
As a toy industry veteran and legal expert witness who has worked on dozens of toy and consumer product cases, including several during the pandemic, I have received dozens of inquiries asking me what are the most important steps to becoming a successful expert witness. While there is no limit to the advice I could offer, here are my top 3 tips (plus a bonus one, read all the way to the bottom).
Tip 1: Thoroughly Read All Case Material
As with any role, a complete understanding of the case you are working on is critical to your success. Understanding the complexities of your case will not only help you better prepare to make your argument, but it will set you up to properly speak at a deposition or a legal proceeding.
This may seem like common sense. However, it is surprising how many expert witnesses cut corners by not completely reading legal documents or cited studies. Often they delegate this time intensive work to office staff or a ghost writer. This strategy becomes problematic when they are questioned by attorneys and don’t understand or cannot explain their own expert report.
Tip 2: Adapt to the style of the law firm you’re working with
I have worked as a toy expert witness since 2008 and have opined in legal matters since 1994. I have been hired by attorneys in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington D.C. And if there’s one thing that is consistent among all law firms is that each has its own approach to defending and organizing cases.
Educate yourself on the law firm you will be working with on the legal expert witness case. Is it small or large? What are its areas of expertise: trademarks, intellectual property, etc.? Has it handled a similar case or legal action with toy experts that is akin to the legal case before you? How many attorneys will be assigned to the toy legal case? Who will be your main point of contact from the firm? Does the firm handle your billing or does the client?
Researching the law firm and their legal resources will also help you establish your legal retainer and estimate your billing, hours, and rates accurately.
Tip 3: Know your deadlines and beat them
Lawyers know that filing declarations and expert reports on time is paramount to a successful case. All parties to a legal case appreciate not having to ask for more time or postponements. Legal documents are complicated and lengthy. It’s easy to get behind when a 25-page toy expert report suddenly morphs into 70 pages due to a myriad of factors.
You can be a hero to the attorney by delivering ahead of deadlines. This allows for smooth adherence to filing dates as well as accurate and truthful declarations and expert reports. Nothing will annoy a lawyer more than waiting until the 11th hour to hand in your report. It’s important to give your legal counsel as much time as possible to prepare the case.
Bonus Tip: Communicate with your legal team
This is your bonus tip and relates very much to the above tip on adhering to deadlines. The judge in these cases is not interested in excuses. Often the court is dealing with reams and reams of legal documents, legal exhibits and pages of deposition testimony.
Your attorneys are relying on you to be the subject matter expert in your area and produce your report intelligently, factually, and on time. The best way I found to be effective on all of these fronts is to communicate with your legal team. If they don’t schedule a meeting in a timely manner, follow up and suggest a meeting time yourself.
While these 4 hot tips are critical to know, they do not cover everything you must be aware of when starting your work with lawyers and legal documents. The most important thing you will need to do is just start. You can’t become a 25-year legal expert witness without getting assigned your first case.
Need more advice on how to be the best legal expert witness you can be, and ensure you win your legal case? Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Are you a product lawyer looking for an experienced toy expert witness for a case you’re working on? Please reach out to email@example.com.