Archive for July 1st, 2009

The Most Effective Expert Witness Is Born, Not Made

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009
     Can there be any question about the fact that credibility is at the heart of every lawsuit? There is no argument that attorneys must appear credible to the jurors and that the evidence they present must be deemed credible. And those that are called to the stand to act as witnesses or experts must, undoubtedly, also be credible.      So what makes for a credible expert witness?  It may not be what you first think, for although the best expert witnesses demonstrate an uncanny natural ability to teach, they are, by and large not PhD’s, that is to say, they are not professional teachers.      Jim McElhaney, senior editor and columnist for Litigation, the journal of the ABA Section of Litigation and author of the article, “Put Simply, Make Your Experts Teach,” which appeared in the May, 2008, ABA Journal may say it best: 

“Don’t use the awful jargon of education theory; choose some simple words that will shape the testimony of the witness and influence how the judge and jury look at what they are hearing.”



     In other words, the most effective expert witnesses:

1)     Are down-to-earth … people who the jurors can relate to;

2)     Are able to convey their message in everyday language, not the jargon of their profession, because people cannot accept as truth what they don’t understand;

3)     Are effective at explaining things and enjoy demonstrating to others how things work;

4)     Are able to tell a story, paint a picture, whatever it takes to enable the jurors to visualize the point;

5)      Will know how to use visual aids, that is, demonstratives, to make the case facts come alive, because jurors need to “see” the facts.    

     In short, your best expert is someone who is an artist capable of explaining the facts, however technical, in the most visual way possible.