Challenges and Opportunities for Technology Expert Witnesses in Today’s Legal Landscape
For expert witnesses, and the teams hiring them, there are always ups and downs. Expert witnesses can be instrumental in nearly any case, but they also face tons of legal red tape and restrictions that can make it difficult to participate in a trial properly.
Well, expert witnesses in technology-related fields are facing their own issues on top of the standard fair.
Today, we want to go over what those opportunities and challenges are, and what legal teams can do to help technology experts overcome or maximize those challenges and opportunities.
What’s Different for Technology Expert Witnesses?
Before we get started, all expert witnesses face tons of challenges. The main opportunity an expert witness offers is the ability to persuade the jury and judge with a credible and professional opinion based on tangible facts. However, because they are such powerful tools in court cases, they are also held to some of the highest standards and are subject to some of the most limiting restrictions.
For example, an expert witness can’t be connected to either party in the vast majority of circumstances. They can’t know them, work with them, or be too closely attached to the situation outside of having previous experience with something similar. Then, they have to watch how they word their points to avoid breaking the many rules attached to their testimony, and something as simple as improper wording or a slip of the tongue can render their testimony useless. That’s all on top of the rigorous requirements necessary to even qualify as an expert witness. Years of professional experience, membership in some of the most prestigious field-specific groups, along with a long list of accomplishments are all basic prerequisites for even being considered as an expert witness.
Technology expert witnesses deal with all that, but they also deal with the challenges and opportunities that are specific to anything related to tech.
The tech space changes at an exceptionally rapid pace presenting an ever-changing bar for experts to live up to, and comes with the added challenge of explaining complex concepts to courtrooms that are unlikely to have even a basic grasp of the core ideas being presented.
The Opportunities Involved with Technology Expert Witnesses
For those who are accomplished in the technology space, there are opportunities available that you probably wouldn’t expect.
Your experience and accomplishments aren’t just great for getting a job in the tech industry, but you might be qualified to serve as an expert witness; helping legal teams explain the more intricate details surrounding the technology you deal with on a daily basis, many probable events that can occur with that technology, and events that have occurred that help guide the case toward a fair and just resolution.
This is a financial opportunity as much as it is an opportunity to add meaning to your professional experience and serve in a way that goes well beyond helping consumers or advancing an industry forward. It has a real impact on lives.
With the tech field expanding at such a rapid pace and affecting the vast majority of professional and consumer spaces, the need for technology experts has grown dramatically to help close the gap between participants in litigation and the technological tools that are quickly becoming too complex for the average person to fully grasp.
The Challenges of Being a Technology Expert Witness
Of course, since technology expert witnesses are a bit newer to the litigation field than medical professionals and various other specialists, there are plenty of challenges that come with the opportunities we talked about previously.
1: Meeting the Requirements
People don’t qualify as expert witnesses just because they’re good at something. Someone who has built computers since the 90s as a hobby is not going to be accepted as an expert witness in a case that deals with computer quality. There are serious requirements that have to be met.
Beyond years of professional experience at the top of the field, other accomplishments and official recognitions are required to show that you’re genuinely qualified to speak on the subject in such a serious manner.
This can be difficult for experts in the technology field as the litigation industry builds its understanding of the standards required.
2: Breaking Down Points for a Layman Audience
Every expert witness deals with this to a certain degree. It’s part of being highly experienced in a niche subject that many other people don’t understand. However, doctors and other common expert witnesses get experience explaining core concepts and complicated topics daily. Tech professionals usually don’t.
This can make it difficult to be an effective technology expert witness simply because it’s hard to get the point across in a way that resonates with jurors, legal teams, and of course, the judge.
3: Maintaining an Up-to-Date Understanding
The technology field evolves extremely quickly. Being an expert with all the right qualifications from 2010 is not going to be useful in cases that deal with modern problems. Technology itself has evolved so much that previous knowledge is almost completely irrelevant.
To be an expert witness in this space, you’ll need to maintain your professional knowledge of the tech involved constantly. Even recent retirees looking to boost their income can quickly become obsolete.
The Opportunities Tech Experts Offer to Legal Teams
While there are personal opportunities for those looking to be tech experts, the opportunities presented to legal teams hiring those experts are exponentially more important. Legal teams don’t just gain a bit of insight; they gain the opportunity to persuade jurors, develop arguments, and ultimately, win cases with ease.
1: Gain Valuable Insight into a Case
Your average lawyer doesn’t have a professional-level understanding of complex technology, how it works, or what it’s capable of in various situations. At best, they typically understand how to use it for work or entertainment like the majority of other people.
Having a technology expert witness on board can provide the insight needed to form solid arguments that hold up to scrutiny and win cases. This cannot be underestimated even if it’s not directly presented in court and is instead used as a form of counsel or pre-trial prep.
2: Informing the Court
The courtroom can hardly be expected to make fair and just decisions when it doesn’t understand the concepts involved in a case. In the past, this problem was most often seen in medical cases. How can a court properly determine whether or not an injury was serious enough to warrant a lawsuit or whatever is being brought up if the members of that court can’t possibly understand how an injury impacts one’s life with proven examples and expert opinion on the matter? The same goes for technology.
A technology expert witness can provide valuable information as to how a certain type of technology works, what it’s capable of, how it can be used improperly, and all sorts of other things that the average person simply doesn’t know.
When the court is properly informed by an expert whose views align with your team’s stance, it can be a critical turning point for any case. Suddenly, they have the right information to make good decisions rather than leaving it up to their own understanding of the topic.
3: Forming Arguments
Having a technology expert on your team can allow you to properly form arguments whether they’re more offensive or defensive.
A technology expert’s guidance can clue you into key points that the opposition might use, and you can develop responses beforehand, or you might be able to find talking points that strengthen your case dramatically.
Being able to go into the courtroom prepared is absolutely key to winning any case.
4: Refuting Opposing Evidence or Providing Alternative Points of View
Obviously, the opposition’s point is to create an argument that can defeat you in court. Well, in a case that is heavily revolved around technology in one way or another, they might fail to understand the technology themselves and focus on other aspects that seem to be winning. However, an expert witness’s testimony is capable of showing the court alternative points of view that refute the opposing argument and strengthen your case.
Challenges for Legal Teams Working with Technology Expert Witnesses
While a technology expert witness can be the defining factor behind a case, it can also end up being a hefty challenge to overcome for numerous reasons. Here are some of the problems your team might face when attempting to hire one.
1: Finding a Qualified Expert
First and foremost, it might be difficult to find an expert witness in this field. It’s a relatively new concept, and besides not being as big of a draw in the tech field, there simply aren’t as many people with the qualifications necessary who are trying to testify in trials. The heads of the tech field are more prone to focus on their careers.
Finding retirees with the time and a lack of career focus who are qualified is also a challenge because their knowledge quickly becomes outdated. Talk to a computer professional from 1995, and then talk to a hobbyist today. The hobbyist’s information will likely be more up-to-date and worthwhile even though they aren’t qualified.
This is a huge challenge, and it gives you a small pool to choose from.
2: Finding an Expert That is Right for Your Team
Once you find some experts, you have a bigger problem.
As you probably know, expert witnesses are forced to testify based on their personal experiences, and they cannot be attached to either party personally or professionally. Their views and what they present to the court have to be facts they have experienced first-hand.
As such, you want your expert witness’s views to match the point you’re trying to make without giving your opponent any help. This requires a lot of vetting, and when you already have a small pool of potential candidates, that can feel impossible.
3: Preparing Your Expert
You can get an expert that knows everything there is to know about the specific technology you’re trying to refer to in your case, and their views can match your team’s exactly, but if they are incapable of presenting that information in a manner that is understandable in the courtroom and meets the court’s requirements for expert testimony, it doesn’t help much.
This can be difficult since the average jury member or judge doesn’t have a complex grasp on the terminology and concepts used in tech, and the people at the top of the tech field are often notorious for having trouble “dumbing down” the way they explain things.
It’s your job to help prepare your expert in a way that meets the court’s requirements so they can effectively participate in the trial.
Again, since the pool of potential experts is so small at the moment, that can be difficult. As this becomes more of a niche in the litigation space, it is likely that these challenges will become a lot easier to overcome.
4: Understanding the Expert Properly
A doctor typically has a lot of experience breaking down their points, because they have to do that for their patients every day. However, as we said earlier, many of the top tech specialists don’t have that experience.
You will be vetting every potential expert witness you can to find the right one, and it’s important for you to understand the views and facts they share with you while you’re going through that vetting process. Even small details that you don’t understand can end up helping your opposition.
This places a much heavier focus on the vetting process, and you might even want to hire a non-testifying expert witness who understands the sector more and can help you make the right hiring decisions.
Finding a Technology Expert Witness Who Works for You
Finding a technology expert witness that is both exceptionally experienced in the tech field and capable of translating that knowledge in a way that the courtroom can easily understand is difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Litigation Legal Insight can help you throughout this process and get you the expertise you need to win at trial. Contact us, today.