I received a question from a fairly new attorney last week about retaining a credit expert witness. Her question was simple, “how do I go about retaining you?” It occurred to me that retaining a credit expert is not a common occurrence for most people so her question was quite reasonable. The answer is pretty straight forward. Retaining a credit expert witness is not unlike retaining an attorney. Most expert witnesses, me included, have a boilerplate retainer agreement that we’d ask to have signed. We also require some amount on retainer. That amount varies from expert to expert. I’ve seen some experts charge as high as $10,000 and as little as $0.
Negotiating terms with a credit expert witness isn’t terribly difficult. Other than the hourly rate, the retainer amount and perhaps some of the language in the retainer agreement, there’s not much to it. Once the retainer agreement has been signed and the financial retainer is in place all of the administrative work has been accomplished. Now it’s time to get to work.
The credit expert witness normally takes some direction from the attorney, although the final opinions should be those of the expert (after 11 years of doing this I can tell you that some experts out there let their opinions be dictated and even written by the lawyers that have retained them). There will be a schedule to which the expert will adhere. Documents are normally provided to the expert witness and a thorough review of such takes place. The expert and the attorney will likely have several conversations during the review process to make sure the expert is focusing on meaningful documents and not wasting time and money on items that aren’t important to his work. Normally, in my work, in addition to pleadings I’m reviewing credit reports, deposition transcripts, production from a lender or a credit reporting agency, and production from a Plaintiff.
But, and here’s my disclaimer, all cases are unique and situations vary. So, while the above is pretty spot on relative to the process, there are scenarios where my work is very different.