Whether you are prosecuting or defending a claim for an attorney fee award, you as the trial lawyer want your expert witness to provide you with seven key advantages. These advantages from your expert make a difference when you get to the settlement table or to the courtroom!
Decades of Experience in the courtroom. Courtroom experience counts. If you want clear communication to a judge or jury waiting for answers to the questions they must decide, get an expert witness who knows how to answer questions on direct or cross examination, because of decades of courtroom experience.
Decades of Study of the work of other attorneys. If a legal fees expert witness has not supervised other lawyers, and has not reviewed bills of other lawyers (outside of fee dispute litigation), then the expert is at a disadvantage in reviewing the work and bills by the lawyers submitting the disputed fee amount. It’s something like an engineer who has studied engineering but never worked as an engineer.
The Creditability of an Author who knows legal precedent and legal billing best practices. Both judges and juries make the sensible decision that a published author indicates peer acceptance by attorneys who seek the author’s published advice, and that writing articles and texts indicates knowledge that is broadly based. An author on the subject of attorney fees, to publish new works or supplements, continuously must review multiple court decisions and ethical billing standards.
Solid Credentials of Practical Knowledge and Wide Experience. Credentials that are ample.
Solid Review of Facts and Applicable Law: the foundation of an expert opinion upon which you can depend at the settlement table or in a trial. In the instance of a dispute on what is a reasonable legal fee for the work that was done, nothing takes the place of the expert taking the time to make an independent and pain-staking review of what tasks the billing attorney accomplished. It’s not only the law in most states, but also “best practice” for an expert to make his/her own independent examination of the fact. Your expert, to be the best expert you can have, must review the fee billings, case materials, and other applicable materials on an objective basis. An attorney fee expert is determining a “reasonable attorney fee” for a legal purpose, and thus must examine the applicable law and ethics rules. Solid examination is the foundation for solid opinions.
Expert Written Opinions that provide you with both detail and summarization. Your expert should place his/her expert opinions into a written report form you can use for discovery responses, settlement discussion, and trial exhibit. A report may have a one page quick summary but are often 30 to 100 pages in length, with tables, exhibits, and references to critical facts in the billing attorney’s handling of the matter, as well as citations to applicable law. The organization of facts and the themes of what was done by the attorney whose fee is in dispute is a part of being thorough. What is important to you is that the attention to providing you with both detail and also summarizations pays dividends to you as an attorney in your preparation for settlement or trial.
Exhibits! To both orally testify and visually show the judge or jury the elements of the attorney fee award presentation (on either side of the case) will help them reach a just, proper, and reasoned conclusion. They are an advantage to you in your work, as they are an advantage to the judge or jury in reaching their decision on a reasonable attorney fee amount.
Clear Testimony at a Deposition or Trial Clarity and Power in presenting the opinion, Experience in presentation in depositions and trials, and Analysis of the matter, done with thoughtfulness, reason, and expert methodology.