Clarity, Character, and Composure: The 3 C’s of Expert Witness Etiquette
In litigation the role of an attorney is to act as an advocate for his or her client. The role of the expert witness, however, is to be objective. Effective expert witnesses produce independent supportable opinions through strong Character, present their work with Clarity, and deal with intense third-party scrutiny with Composure. These “Three C’s” of etiquette enable an expert witness to maintain impartiality and achieve successful results throughout the turbulence of litigation.
“A man’s character is his fate,” according to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. This maxim is particularly true for the expert witness, who bears responsibility to develop and render independent opinions. The expert’s responsibility and loyalty is to the integrity of his work and his relevant professional standards. This involves considering all the facts and circumstances relevant to the case, beneficial or otherwise to the client, and understanding the perspectives of both the plaintiffs and defendants. There are no shortcuts in developing an expert opinion; the thorough expert measures twice and cuts once.
“Character, clarity and composure should be ingrained habits that establish a professional reputation for excellence.” – Thomas Pastore & Forrest Vickery, Sanli Pastore & Hill, Inc.
In the end, a judge, arbitrator or jury, quite often with limited technical and financial experience and background, delivers the verdict for compensation or damages. The French writer Rene Daumal stated, “It is still not enough for language to have clarity and content … it must also have a goal and an imperative. Otherwise from language we descend to chatter, from chatter to babble, and from babble to confusion.”
One of the failings experts commit is assuming the audience understands all of the technical lingo and jargon that is prevalent is his or her industry. This usually results in a failure of communication, and the expert’s ideas and conclusions fall on deaf ears as the “babble” and “confusion” is tuned out by the trier of fact. Conveying complicated and complex ideas and data with clarity and simplicity is the expert’s responsibility. The expert does not want to waste 100 hours of work with one hour of confusion. Having the layperson’s point of view in mind, an effective expert employs creative ways to explain and describe clearly intricate calculations and complex analyses. This can include visual presentations in the form of graphic displays and testimony using analogous situations that jurors can relate to.
Litigation is by its nature adversarial. Opposing experts and legal counsel will endeavor to poke holes in an expert’s work and discredit the expert. During deposition and cross-examination, the expert will be challenged. Armed with thorough research and due diligence, an expert of good character will remain composed under scrutiny; remaining calm under the pressure of incisive questioning is a must. The famous American trial lawyer Louis Nizer said, “In cross-examination, as in fishing, nothing is more ungainly than a fisherman pulled into the water by his catch.” A composed expert has a calm mind that enables clear thinking and effective responses to aggressive cross examination designed to challenge methodogy, conclusions, objectivity and credibility.
It is important that an expert witness’ work on every case follows the Three C’s of etiquette. Character, clarity and composure should be ingrained habits that establish a professional reputation for excellence. In fact, there may be a missing C, i.e., Consistency, which denotes that the expert always adheres to the Three C’s.
For the past 20 years, SP&H has been a premier provider of business valuations, lost profit calculations, and economic damage analyses for litigation and dispute resolution. SP&H’s proven methodology combines theory with common sense to derive results that can withstand stringent third-party scrutiny including court, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), board of directors and shareholder scrutiny. SP&H’s experts are sought after by executives, attorneys and professional advisors for both transactions and litigation.
Contact Sanli Pastore & Hill, Inc.:
Thomas Pastore, CEO
Los Angeles Office
Forrest Vickery, Managing Director