Highly paid expert witnesses played a pivotal role in the patent infringement lawsuit between Apple and Samsung. But for a small firm or solo attorney, when do you need to hire expert witnesses for your own case?
Apple's legal team reportedly paid their experts more than $50,000 each to take the stand. Of course, the high-stakes lawsuit involved complex patents and technology that most laymen do not understand. In that case, the use of experts made sense.
However, paying expert witnesses tens of thousands of dollars could bankrupt many small firms. As a result, you should ask yourself the following questions before hiring an expert:
What do you want your expert to testify about? You want your expert witness to testify about things outside of the general knowledge of non-experts. So while it may seem convincing to have an expert on the stand to testify on your behalf, it could be a waste of money if a layperson could effectively testify to the same thing.
Is this the type of case experts are typically hired for? Intellectual property cases and medical malpractice cases beg for the use of experts to help explain difficult concepts. However, most DUI cases and other crimes like assault and battery probably don't need an expert witness.
What's the risk/reward? If you had Apple's resources, you would likely hire an expert witness for every minor point. However, given your economic realities, you may have to balance to need for an expert against what your client can afford. Effective representation does not necessarily mean the very best representation, especially when that representation could drain your client of all his or her resources.
Before making the financial commitment to hire an expert witness, you should ask yourself these questions. Otherwise, even if you win your case, you could still lose given the fees you'll be paying out.