Introduction: Basic Requirements
Although malpractice defense attorneys and the system in which we function may benefit greatly from your participation, you must understand and accept the demands of defense expert service before deciding to participate.
Time and Flexibility
At a minimum, appreciate that expert service requires time. Even if your interest is genuine, lack of time and the potential for a compromised effort or product will be your undoing and perhaps that of the defendant you intend to help. That said, the amount of time expected or required depends on several factors. Perhaps the most obvious is the amount of work you attract. If you are fortunate enough to receive cases for review at the average rate of five per year at the beginning of your “expert” career, and assuming a moderate amount of review material per case (eg, the defendant’s office chart and radiographs, other treaters’ office records and radiographs, two sets of interrogatory answers [written responses to written questions], four to five deposition transcripts, and various miscellaneous documents), it is likely that your otherwise spare time will suffice (eg, days off, evenings at home, or weekends). For an experienced and modestly busy expert receiving 8 to 10 cases a year, more significant amounts of spare time will be needed.
Equally essential is schedule flexibility. Although reviewing material is central to liability expert service, of equal import are conferences, both personal and telephonic. Although you may be able to arrange such confabs around your practice schedule, there will be infrequent occasions when an urgent telephone conference will be dictated by litigation-driven developments. Attorneys who are regularly unable to connect with their experts will become frustrated. Such repeated frustration can only serve to antagonize the attorney and may have the undesirable and perhaps undeserved effect of altering the otherwise positive perception the attorney has of you. Within the confines of an understandably busy practice, strive to make yourself available.
In addition to document review and conferences, a critical component of liability expert work in many states is the written report. You need to be able to find time not only to scrutinize materials but also to prepare a report in letter form that outlines your review and the opinions derived from that effort. Like document assessment itself, this too is done in your spare time ideally, and assuming that you have computer capabilities, the report can be composed in the comfort of your home, home office, or practice office if you prefer. You may choose to dictate the report or write it longhand for a computer operator (in your office or at an outside service) to perform this task. Nevertheless, preparation of the substantive report requires time.
Two exceptions exist to the notion that aside from time and schedule constraints you exclusively control all aspects of your effort. Those exceptions are (1)