Selecting an expert witness requires a thorough understanding of the issues in the case, as well as the type of experts that may be required to provide clarity of the issues for the finder of fact. Some areas of practice, such as land use and real property litigation, often involve added dimensions of complexity in evaluating and planning for expert testimony. Litigation varies widely from case to case, but the attorney's challenge remains the same: putting together expert testimony to clearly articulate the relevant facts and the conclusions that should be drawn from the facts. Con siderations that go into properly evaluating the need for expert testimony, including selecting and managing the experts, can be among the most critical aspects of successful trial preparation.
The nuanced assessment of litigation issues provided by experts is something that is often given short shrift in the early stages of case evaluation or litigation preparation. There may be straightforward legal issues identified in the cases, but the vast number of unique issues that play into virtually every case requiring expert testimony calls for a somewhat different and expanded relationship between the attorney and the experts.
In the world of business, effective management of complex subjects generally requires a team of consultants. In real estate, land use, and development, for example, the management team requires legal, marketing, finance, environmental, entitlement, architectural, traffic, community relations, political, geotechnical, civil engineering, sustainability, and construction expertise. In all complex matters, whether in business, medicine, engineering, or virtually any other field, it is advisable to have an executive project manager to select and coordinate the activities of each required consultant team member. To be maximally effective, litigators should ideally act in the capacity of an executive project manager. Unfortunately, few attorneys are capable of evaluating all the necessary diverse areas of expertise involved in complex litigation, or understand which of these areas may be relevant to the issues of a case. While specific detailed technical expertise is often clearly called for in litigation, there are often relevant factors upon which the outcome of the case can turn that may not be readily apparent.
In complex cases, it can be tremendously valuable to have a generalist expert who is familiar with all the disparate aspects of the litigation. This expert can assist the attorney as executive manager of the expert witness team. Treating litigation like a business project can help identify and piece together elements of a case that are not immediately evident. Unfortunately, not all cases have sufficient damages to justify a comprehensive expert team. But when the litigation and client can support the cost, there is no better way to help ensure an outcome that reflects all available avenues of analysis. The following case study will illustrate how valuable expanded involvement by an expert can be to a case.
Philip Simmons is a real estate and land use attorney, as well as being an expert witness and real estate development consultant. Philip offers over 30 years experience managing major real estate developments and development organizations - including serving as Vice President of Development for Archstone-Smith, and Division President for John Laing Homes. His unique combination of executive management, legal, and brokerage skills gives him broad expertise in land use, acquisition, entitlement, development, contracts, syndications, finance, marketing and disposition. His clear and thoughtful analysis and communication style has contributed to the successful outcome of numerous cases.
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