So You Think You’re An Expert!

I know a lot of consultants that fancy themselves as experts in their respective fields. If you really want to validate a self-proclaimed title of subject matter expert, I suggest you test your mettle in a court of law. There is a market for security professionals to offer their expert opinion in litigation proceedings for both civil and criminal cases. These services can include case assessment, evidence evaluation, tactics examination, investigation, report writing, deposition, and testimony.

The Devil is in the Details

In preparing for legal proceedings, assistance from a subject matter expert typically begins with a thorough research process to identify and record current and applicable industry standards and best practice benchmarks. All of this is driven by the nature of the case and the specific discipline you are offering your respective expertise, such as retail theft, facility security, workplace violence, or emergency management. An expert needs to have the capability and competency to not only rely on a methodical and meticulous preparation methodology, but also to offer an equally proficient familiarity and comprehension of the specific subject matter based on educational qualifications, professional background, and definitive experience related to the subject matter.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense  

Another key dynamic is the side you are representing, plaintiff or defendant. It is important to note, that you should never take on a case based on compensation. The bottom line is not the determining factor. The decision to accept work in this field is whether or not the legal position of the prospective client is consistent with your expert opinion. The golden rule is to believe in the side you are representing and the stance you are endorsing. When supporting the defense’s legal team, the best strategy is a confined focus on disproving the position of the other side. On the other hand, when backing the plaintiff, the best tactic is to attack. An expert can be brought in to expose a weakness and highlight one specific fault that could refute the defense’s opinion.

Observe and Report  

The fruit of this labor will be found in the pages of your expert witness report. This document should comprise clear and direct language. Identify where you obtained each fact and piece of data. This can be done with footnotes or direct references in the text of your report. This will show the reader that you didn’t create these facts and will help when testifying. An expert’s role is to state and provide an opinion, every word in the report matters, so choose them carefully. An opinion should be expressed succinctly and confidently. Avoid words, such as, “seemingly” or “apparently,” which gives the perception that the expert is not certain in the written words of the report. The best rule-of-thumb is to imagine how an antagonistic attorney could use these words against you during a deposition or cross-examination.

Never Imitated, Often Duplicated  

There is no substitute for experience. An expert opinion is forged by years of real-world and hands-on experience. You cannot wake up one morning and decide to become an expert. This is a body-of-work developed over years and years of honing your skills. There is no substitute for experience, but experience by itself is not enough. This is not a line-of-work for a professional to rest on their laurels. Complacency and the status quo are fatal flaws. Staying up-to-date with industry trends, emerging technology, current research, and recent articles and publications can keep an expert and an expert.