There are a number of expert witness referral services out there, several of them with high profiles and long lists of available experts. It seems like a good value proposition: An attorney needs an expert in a particular specialty, and the expert witness service does the legwork to find qualified candidates.
However, having worked as a forensic accountant and an expert witness for twenty years, I will tell you that attorneys should NOT use these services. There are a few simple reasons why:
You can find your own expert: In the “old days,” it was a great idea to turn to expert witness referral services, who kept lists of available experts. There were not a lot of expert witness directories, and there wasn’t an internet you could consult. But today it is easy to find very qualified experts with the help of the internet. An attorney can have a paralegal or associate start the search process to find potential candidates, and then the attorney in charge of the case can interview experts and make a selection.
The expert witness referral service does not add value: What value does the expert witness referral service provide other than essentially keeping a list? Sure, they make some phone calls and send some emails to find out who is qualified and interested, but that service is of limited value. While expert witness referral services claim to vet the professionals they present to the attorneys, they often do little more than collect CVs and conduct brief phone interviews. This is not worth the money the services will charge if you hire one of their experts.
The service is too expensive: The cost of using an expert witness referral service is high. They usually mark up the experts hourly fees, often to the tune of $100 per hour or more. Some mark up the bills a particular amount per hour, while others add a percentage onto the bills. In other words, the service collects thousands of dollars for a little bit of matchmaking. It’s simply not worth the extra fees, which can be huge in larger cases. What value did the service really add?
I have occasionally worked with expert witness referral services when they have brought me interesting cases. It makes no difference to me who brings me a case if it is within my area of expertise and I am interested in the case. But I always wondered why the attorneys used the service instead of a turning to a search engine. They could have easily found me that way, and avoided the high cost of the service.
There are times when it may make sense to use an expert witness referral service. Maybe you’re searching for someone with a very narrow area of expertise. Maybe you don’t have the time or resources to conduct a search for an expert. In cases like that, you may find value in the service a company provides. However, in most litigation, I recommend attorneys avoid expert witness referral services and find an expert on their own.