Midnight Oil Burners
I had a call last week on Friday, from the search firm, seeking to potentially fill a recent query for an Expert Witness. Reporting that I'm available for a phone interview was the next step. With that in mind, I could expect a call from a law firm partner, who would be asking an array of questions that would be germane to the case they're handling. Spending about an hour on the phone with the partner, answering questions on my background, prior experiences, profiles and billings, he arrived at the point summarizing the call, and left me thinking that they'd get back to me within a few days.
The agency confirmed the law firm's interest, and offered that the initial interview had gone well and they would send over a copy of the pleadings for my review. Then the revelations set in unfolding a case of twists, tangles, muddy waters and a whole cadre of players to the suit. First time through the pleadings was akin to juxtaposing quantum mechanics to the theory of relativity. It was time to wade more deeply into the pleadings. Then the curtain call appeared in the form of the case call up 13 days subsequent to the law firm interview. Ok, I've got a little wiggle room, but not much.
Again, that all took place on a Friday afternoon and I anticipated a call from the law firm by the following Monday, to solidify the expert witness contract, obtain a retainer and begin delving into the case.
Monday came and went; same with the next five days. On Wednesday of that week, I received a note from the agency advising that the law firm was working with their clients to finalize my appointment and I should hear from them shortly. In the meantime, I decided it best to get up to speed on the pleadings, making notes, and reviewing it for items that I'd need to request, some of which were going to have the law firm support staff running around like monkeys at the zoo. But I'm the expert and I determine where I need to build a solid base of support for case recommendations and possible direction. The more I mentally digested the pleadings, the more I determined that this was one doozie of a case which would require intense investigation, profiling and understanding in the chain of events - nothing short of unscrambling the eggs.
Moreover, I also felt that the pleadings were somewhat shortsighted in a few items, if only because plaintiff attorney(s), obviously did not research the complexities of this case. It is not my decision or call to advise adverse attorneys, however it would be part of my expertise to advise Defense counsel, that within the pleadings lies some uncharted waters, and they'd want to be prepared to deal with them in the event some of those little cancers surface close to the case call up.
Today is Friday, one week past the initial phone call and not one word from the defense law firm. I would be chomping at the bit were it not for a daughter of mine, also an attorney, who advised me that this is exactly the way the game is played. Litigators, per se, have a penchant for waiting until the absolute last minute to put things in order, like contracting with Expert Witnesses. It was her advice that elucidated that the potential case just may be dealt with the following Monday. Consider, the case call up is now five days subsequent, no contract has been signed, no retainer received and the fact that I have sixteen items which require copies of documents that have not even been brought into the arena. To thicken the plot, some of those items are from overseas providers, which documents are an integral part of the case and anyone whose ever dealt with foreign entities knows, they don't drop everything just because you need it in a heartbeat.
As of today, the frustration mounts, anger sets in, and you quietly curse the Litigators for waiting until the very last minute to solidify your expertise for case leverage. Thoughts of putting the monkey on their backs run through your head, like why not add a penalty for putting me, the expert, into a position of having to now work 15 hours per day to perform at my best. Where do we as experts justify the pressure generated by firms in general, without any consideration of the hurdles we'll have to run in order to offer professional expertise. Should we tack on additional billable hours as "Overtime" pay, or swallow the enchilada that this is just the way things are done in the expert witness arena, and reconcile that this is your job description, live with it?
Robert Erwin Ross is an Expert Witness in the fields of Investment Securities and Bank Fraud / Letters of Credit.
See Mr. Ross' Profile on Experts.com.
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