Professionals in the psychiatry, psychology, social work, and the developmental and intellectual disabilities field may be called upon to testify as experts in court in both individual and class action cases. Professionals often come to this task with many questions. Legal standards for acceptance of expert opinions must be met.
Counsel calling upon experts may desire many types of assistance and may, in some cases, be unaware of the extent of assistance an expert is able to provide. When a case moves to the courtroom, the expert wants to understand both the process and the substance: “What will happen? And how can I make the most skilled and relevant presentation?”
There are related practical questions as well. How does one prepare for testimony? What sort of site visit, interviews and record review, and other activities are most – or least – useful in this context? How does one write effective reports which meet both professional and legal standards? What should an expert expect from the lawyer who seeks the testimony, and what input should an expert require from the retaining attorney? What happens in a deposition or in cross-examination? What should the expert expect in court? And how does the court or other judicial officer hear and consider the testimony? What sort of presentation affects how the testimony is received?
This outline addresses the above and related matters. It is informed by the author’s experience as a litigator who has retained and confronted experts in these fields, and also by his experience as a court-appointed special master and as a court monitor.