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What to Make of the Expert Witness C.V.

Paloma Capanna, Attorney at Law

January 29, 2013


How many times do we hear the advice to limit one’s resume to one page?

But when it comes to written credentials, when does the resume become a “curriculum vitae” and do any page limits apply?

The general rule of thumb on resumes is that once a person begins publishing, lecturing, and training others, the resume changes structure into the “curriculum vitae.”

The “CV” can be thought of as a bibliography of one’s career.

For expert witnesses, the CV can be considerable in length and detail. Some expert witnesses maintain three, different CVs:

  • The bio
  • The short
  • The detailed

The expert witness may select the length of the CV in relationship to the case at hand. Alternatively, the lawyer can work with the expert witness to select the version of the CV which is best suited for the particulars of the pending case.

The challenge for the lawyer is to turn the CV into a useful document. To do that, let’s identify those uses.

First, there is the evaluation of the credentials of the expert witnesses under consideration for hire.

Second, there is the list of credentials for the discovery responses.

And third, there is the list of credentials for the courtroom presentation, differentiating between a bench trial and a jury trial.

In the first instance of the lawyer’s search to hire an expert witness, an important part of the review is to match the expert witness as closely as possible to the facts and legal issues of the case.

The lawyer may have to invest hours reviewing lengthy CVs to make comparisons that could come down to the quality level of peer-reviewed journals or co-authors or consistency of dates of publications.

In the second instance, if the lawyer is practicing in a state where the identity of the expert witness can remain confidential until trial, the lawyer may want to work with the expert to draft discovery responses in the lawyer’s own words to fairly summarize and highlight the credentials from the CV.

In other states where expert witnesses can be deposed by opposing counsel, the CV strategy may be quite the opposite of trying to flush out from opposing counsel questions that might otherwise become a surprise at trial.

In the third instance, when the question is presentation of the CV in a bench trial, it pays to know the judge’s tendencies to qualifying the witness as an expert and to giving appropriate weight to the expert testimony.

If the lawyer is not experienced in front of a particular judge, it is time to make the rounds to colleagues to ask about their specific experiences presenting witnesses for qualification as an expert, including reaction of the bench to various CVs.

This leaves the most complex circumstance for last, and that is the presentation of the CV to the jury.

A polling of colleagues will quickly reveal that there is no easy answer.

In a pharmaceutical case, the pharmacology expert may need the listing of every publication on the CV to vault his expertise to a persuasive level.

By contrast, a motor vehicle case with minor injuries may need a CV only as long as the physician’s Board Certification to persuade the jury to give full weight to his testimony.

Perhaps if there is any rule of thumb when it comes to the CV of the expert witness it is simply that the very qualifications that turn a witness into an expert will not be limited to just one page.

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