Every day my inbox is filled with questions about Medical Expert Witnesses from physicians, so today’s Blog is dedicated to doctors’ FAQs. Physicians want to know how to get started in this arena. We want to become known experts in our respective fields. And since physicians are notoriously Type-A personalities, we want to know the best way to learn everything we can to become adept authorities without wasting our time learning from the wrong sources.
Chances are, you probably have these same types of questions. And you’ve probably even spent some time on blogs, forums and around the web, trying to get answers. Problem is, you keep getting conflicting answers.
For example, just pop onto any Physician Facebook Group and ask this question: How much should I charge for work as an expert witness?
I am sure that you’ll get conflicting advice. Some people will tell you to keep your rates low so that you don’t scare off potential attorney clients. Others will recommend that you collect a retainer and charge higher rates than you ever imagined. And just to make it extra confusing, you might even get a few people telling you to not bother with any of it because it’s impossible to find good work as a medical expert.
If you’re just trying to break into Medical Expert work, it’s even harder because you don’t where to begin. But the truth is, there are several excellent online resources/websites–it’s just important to know which ones are credible.
That’s why I compiled this list of frequently asked questions.
I wanted to make sure you receive the right advice from someone who’s successfully navigated the world of medical legal consulting.
Q. What is the best way to get work as a Medical Expert?
A. There are many different ways to get yourself known by attorneys. If you talk to 5 successful Experts and ask them how they got started, you may get a myriad of different answers.
Here are the top 5 ways to break into the Medical Expert field:
1. Look up Medical Malpractice or Personal Injury attorneys in your area, and send them a letter/email introducing yourself.
TIP: Attorneys are always looking for new undiscovered expert talent.
2. Update your Linkedin Profile. It’s free marketing. Attorneys use Linkedin and I’ve spoken to Medical Experts who secured their first job through an attorney’s random InMail inquiry.
3. Contact your Lawyer friends to tell them you are interested in this type of work. Even if they don’t interface with Medical Experts, they may be able to connect you with colleagues who do.
4. Pay to list with an online Expert Directory. There are several, such as the SEAK Expert Witness Directory. Most online directories require physicians to pay an annual fee to be listed on their site.
TIP: For best results, include a professional headshot and an updated CV on your listing.
5. List with a Concierge Medical Expert matching service such as with my company, MED LAW Consulting, LLC. You are listed free of charge, and if you are matched with an attorney, you then arrange your fees directly with counsel.
TIP: When you are contacted, call the attorney back promptly. If you are difficult to reach, they will go to the next expert on their list.
TIP: Once you get your first few jobs, and knock their socks off with great quality work, word-of-mouth will make you very busy.
Q. Are there guidelines to follow when performing Medical Expert work?
A. Yes. You need to adhere to appropriate ethics. You need to be truthful. You should not opine on a field of which you are not an expert. Some specialties require that you pass certain requirements in order to become registered as an expert, such as the American Urological Association. Make sure that you check out the guidelines in your particular specialty and state.
Here are some Medical Expert guidelines. Please note, this is not a comprehensive list:
(Are there other useful guidelines missing on this list? Let me know in the comment link at the top of this Blog post.)
Q. Are there courses that I should take before I become a Medical Expert?
A. Many times, you need no formal training in order to become a Medical Expert (see the question on guidelines above.) However, a course can certainly be helpful. I attended SEAK’s conference “How to Start, Build and Run a Successful Medical Expert Witness Practice” in Cape Cod this year and found it very worthwhile. To be clear, I have no affiliation with SEAK– I registered and paid just like everyone else. It was a great overview of best-practices and was useful for everyone from the novice to quite established expert.
Q. Are there any free resources for Medical Experts that I should check out?
A. Yes. There are some great free resources out there.
Here some free resources for Medical Expert Witnesses that I recommend:
- John Jurica, MD’s recent podcast featuring Dr. Peter Steinberg’s Medical Expert work was excellent. Read about it: here.
- SEAK has free Expert Witness resources. Read them: here.
- The Expert Institute has a comprehensive Blog. Read it: here.
(Are there other worthwhile free resources for Medical Experts? Let me know in the comment link at the top of this Blog post.)
Q. What qualities are attorneys looking for in a Medical Expert?
A. Attorneys tell me that they want a Medical Expert who is highly clinically qualified, a good communicator, honest, calm under pressure, easy to deal with and reliable. If you don’t have a thick skin or would lose your cool under cross-examination by opposing counsel, this is not the right field for you.
Q. Do I need to be practicing clinical medicine in order to be a Medical Expert?
A. Yes.In most cases, except for certain particular niches, Medical Experts still need to be seeing patients, at least part-time, in order to qualify as a Testifying Expert Witness.
Q. How much should I charge for my services as a Medical Expert?
A. It depends. The market can vary based on your location and particular expertise/niche. Some physicians charge a flat hourly rate that does not change. Others charge a split fee: lower hourly rate for document review/report writing and a higher rate for deposition and trial testimony.
Check the following sources when determining what fees to charge as an Expert Witness:
- Contact colleagues who do expert work for their fees.
- The Expert Institute’s Fee calculator can be found: here.
- SEAK publishes a free whitepaper “Expert Witness Fee Data” that you can download: here.
TIP: Do your research and don’t sell yourself short.
Q. I’ve been trying to find Medical Expert work for over 1 year now, but no attorneys have contacted me. What am I doing wrong?
A. There are several possible reasons.
Some potential explanations attorneys are not contacting you for expert work:
- Your Online Presence is questionable. Google yourself to identify what attorneys are seeing when they search for you. Clean up your online activity, including Social Media.
- You’re difficult to reach. Is it easy for the attorney to contact you or does s/he have to call your office and wait on hold, only to have his/her call returned days later? If you are hard to get in touch with, the attorney will move on to the next expert on their list.
- Attorneys can’t find you. Try one of the other ideas above on how to get work such as listing with a Concierge Medical Expert matching service like my company, MED LAW Consulting, LLC: here.
- Your area of expertise is not clear. Experts with clearly defined niches fair better than experts who claim to know everything about everything.
TIP: List your cell phone number to make it easy for attorneys to contact you.
Q. If you went back in time and took a Medical Expert case for the first time ever, what would you do differently this time?
A. If I could do my first case over again, I would have had more confidence. I now know that with a little know-how and practice, almost anyone can become a successful Medical Expert.
At last, you finally know the INSIDE TIPS about Medical Expert Witness work. And that means that you can now list your services more confidently because you’re armed with the knowledge you need to succeed.