What If I Don’t Want to Take a Case as an Expert Witness?

Posted by John Ulzheimer - October 1, 2011 - Credit - No Comments

What If I Don’t Want to Take a Case as an Expert Witness?

Professional expert witnesses won’t publicly admit it, but they’re all hourly employees to some extent.  If they don’t work, they don’t get paid.  So the dilemma we face when we’re presented with potential “business” that we don’t really want is hard to deal with.  What do we do when we’re pitched on a case that we really don’t want?

First things first, I’m a firm believer that EVERYONE deserves a world class expert witness, regardless of who they are or what they supposedly did.  In my business I’m often faced with potentially taking credit damage expert cases against mega-banks, huge collection agencies, huge debt buyers and the big credit reporting agencies.  I’ve been told, off the record of course, that I were to take cases against certain companies that I would permanently burn the bridge with that company and would never be hired by them in the future for other credit expert witness work.

I know this is true given I’ve taken cases against all three of the national credit reporting agencies, who are sued almost constantly, yet haven’t been hired by any of them for over 5 years for expert witness work.  Seems like when their feeling are hurt they hold a grudge.  This hasn’t been true for banks and collection agencies.  I’ve taken cases against certain banks and collectors and have been subsequently hired by them later down the road for future cases.

An expert witness is a one man company and one many companies have to be cognizant of the business side of the equation, more so than larger organizations.  If taking one case against John’s Bank takes you off their list of potential experts in the future then you have to consider whether a fast nickel or a slow dime is your preference.

If you don’t want to take a case against a potential future corporate client then don’t take it.  I’ve turned down cases simply because I don’t want to burn a bridge that perhaps hasn’t even been built yet.  It’s not hard in my industry, consumer credit, to see who is and who isn’t being sued under the various consumer protection statutes.  I look at that list as a list of potential expert witness prospects.

There’s nothing wrong with referring the business to another expert.  And, there’s nothing wrong with turning down work because you don’t agree with the argument you’re being asked to support.  I do it all the time.  In fact, I’ve told prospective credit damage expert clients that my fees are going to far outweigh any damages their clients have suffered.  Honesty is the best policy and if they just don’t have any damages then…they don’t have any damages.

This isn’t a “conflicts” thing…it’s a business decision.  I often see novice credit damage expert witnesses so desperate for their first case that they’ll take on a horrible case, with a really bad attorney, at an outrageously unfair hourly rate, just to get a case under their belt.  Let me tell you, there’s nothing beneficial about getting your tail kicked and possibly being disqualified just to make a few bucks and get a case on your list.  Quality outweighs quantity and if you have to turn down business for the sake of maintaining your reputation then it’s my advice that you do so.