Expert Witness Secrets

What can we learn from the Bond Solon expert Witness Income Survey 2021?

March 24, 2022 Season 4 Episode 28
Expert Witness Secrets
What can we learn from the Bond Solon expert Witness Income Survey 2021?
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode we're going to explore all of the key themes and lessons that I took away from attending the interesting and vibrant annual witness conference held in November 2021 in central London. The day was a combination of networking, key lessons, and some excellent keynote from Sir Geoffrey Vos, as well as an opportunity to check back in with other experts to see how they were managing with the impact of the pandemic, the way in which this has changed their workflow, the way in which they changed their approach towards their clinical career, a lot of doctors, including some that are listening to this podcast, are clearly having a reset of their thinking in terms of how they want to balance their their work life. So huge philosophical takeaways, I think, for me, and I want to share now more specific lessons learned from each of the parts that I feel are really useful to take away. 

In this episode we're going to explore all of the key themes and lessons that I took away from attending the interesting and vibrant annual witness conference held in November 2021 in central London. The day was a combination of networking, key lessons, and some excellent keynote from Sir Geoffrey Vos, as well as an opportunity to check back in with other experts to see how they were managing with the impact of the pandemic, the way in which this has changed their workflow, the way in which they changed their approach towards their clinical career, a lot of doctors, including some that are listening to this podcast, are clearly having a reset of their thinking in terms of how they want to balance their their work life. So huge philosophical takeaways, I think, for me, and I want to share now more specific lessons learned from each of the parts that I feel are really useful to take away. 


So the morning kicked off with a great keynote from Sir Geoffrey Vos, who is called the Master of the Rolls and Head of the Civil Justice system. So sort of the authority when it comes to civil justice. And it was clear that the radical rethink of the Civil Justice Justice system, I think, ultimately is a precursor, the pandemic was acting as a precursor to this, I think there was a, a real radical shift that has occurred, largely because of the impact that this pandemic has had, it's referred to as a springboard to change. And I think, ultimately, it was about the change towards a truly digital justice system. In other words, having all of the inefficiencies removed from the justice system. And I think, ultimately, to not just improve access to justice and reduce costs, but also, to make the system work more effectively. There are a significant amount of inefficiencies within most legal systems in most jurisdictions around the world. And a lot of it is legacy, paper-based, and old style communication, telephones, fax, and for those of you old enough to remember faxes, there's all of these things that were slowly phased out. And it's clear that the sense of direction is to move this much more towards the digital future. And we cover this in another episode of this podcast, which was the reset that the medical legal system needed as a result of the pandemic. And I hope you get a chance to listen to that, too, because I'm going to explore a lot more of the specifics surrounding the impact of the pandemic it's had on all of us. So, I think you'll find that that episode quite useful to refer back to, but let's get into the sort of considerations for the digital future, to the civil claims management system to increase efficiency and thinking about these can often give us food for thought and reflection as an expert witness. The first of the five was to collect all of the claims electronically through a portal to make it an easier centralized digital deposit, so that you haven't got all of these different layers of complexity and inefficiency in terms of communication, that's all sort of being removed. And court orders are the second point was that the court orders themselves could be made online and all of the relevant parties can be notified electronically. And again, to improve efficiency. Thirdly, was a system to automate the parties of their responsibilities resulting from a court order. So there could be electronic communication reminders, and possibly the ability to resolve financial settlements all through this one centralized block platform. And, of course, for us as experts, the ability to deliver reports electronically, our duty always remains to the court could result in a future where our report submission could be done electronically as well. How and when that is going to be rolled out is tricky to know. But I think the point of this and I'm going to talk about this later, is about how the delivery of expert evidence is done in the most efficient manner so we don't end up with months and months of delays from instructing party getting authorization through to instructing as an expert, through to the delivery of the report. And then making its way to the court. This is typically months if not sometimes years of a process, which could potentially be done in a matter of weeks, if not sooner, with this sort of digital future. And then lastly, on this, top five considerations for the digital future of the civil justice system, was the use of the blockchain to form the backbone of all of the document management. In other words, what they call an immutable ledger or some way of having a centralized place where all digital documents evidence is essentially stored in a way that can't be manipulated, very much like the blockchain has done for cryptocurrencies. So this future, a lot of different government bodies are exploring this future, whereby the removal of the steps required to exchange contracts, information, emails, etc. all become really sluggish and slow. You know, think about the delays, just in your instructing party, giving you instructions, sometimes there can be weeks of delay between the instructing party getting a request before you receive it. So each time there's these layers of delays being built in a centralized blockchain would allow the management of documents to be almost instantaneous, so parties could sign documents instantaneously. Think about joint statements that you might make with another expert, this could be done in a way whereby a centralized digital backbone enables all of these things to be executed faster. And I think for expert witnesses, this is going to mean the ability to focus on your evidence and submit it and manage any follow up in an easy, interactive way, rather than dragging out emails you've received some two or three years ago. And sifting through all of the papers to understand what exactly you're being asked off. I mean, I find that quite time consuming, especially when there's been significant delays between each of the stages, I think this efficiency driver is going to benefit experts, ultimately, because the least amount of delay between each of the interactions or instructions with your instructing party is a good thing. I mean, you're probably aware of reports you've written in the past where the interactions have been quite efficient. And you know, you've got what seems like a really, really efficient instructing party. And you'll find yourself that you can quickly resolve those reports, in your mind, focus on the delivery of the expert evidence, and submit it and complete it and move on. And the legal matters, obviously, are outside of our hands, but the satisfaction and enjoyment of working in that more efficient way versus thinking about on the other end of the spectrum where you have instructing parties that are inefficient with their communication, it can be a real drag, and it can really slow you down. And it can feel like watching paint dry sometimes when it comes to the management of a case or instruction. So I think this is really a good thing. It's going to move us towards a future of report writing, which requires less preparation and more interactive, focused interaction. So ultimately, we've got the ability to potentially respond in the future to enquiries electronically. And we've got the possibility of making digital communication to reach a settlement even more effective. For the instructing parties, the solicitors that are likely to be involved in managing settlement itself, each of these layers is moving us towards a more efficient, and I think a more effective way of settling more and more cases. I mean, in terms of practical future considerations, that could be the uploading of evidence electronically, rather than sending it as emails that this could be sent through a centralized portal, again, removing some of the of the delays and some of the hassle associated with with communications coming backwards and forwards, the online dispute process could be digitized to reduce the cost of litigation, again, to give more people access to justice. And I think ultimately to remove some of that friction that is cost a lot of time and money for all the parties involved. 


There was also a great insight to the sort of future of the machine readability of reports to allow artificial intelligence (AI) to interpret a report. So rather than solicitors, and other parties having to sift through very long, complicated reports, they may have the ability to extract what they feel are the most important salient aspects of the report, so that your report may well still be quite detailed. It can be interpreted much faster by those that need to have access to information. So all of these things I think, are moving in a direction towards increased efficiency and increased speed. The blockchain management in civil justice matters could end up with what they call smart contracts. This is transforming the engagement and limiting the amount of disputes between the parties. The as I mentioned earlier, the blockchain to manage the immutable transfer and storage of electronic contracts, and possibly even crypto assets that cryptocurrency and to instantly resolve a trans instant transaction with which means that the matters can be again be dealt with and resolved in a much, much more faster way. Second part of the session was really interesting from Mr Ben Perry-Smith, who I interviewed in one of the episodes of this podcast, which was titled experts and lawyers, a marriage made in heaven. And this is a really interesting way in which you can learn but the relationship the unique marriage in inverted commas between an expert and lawyer, and we went through 10 different tests of a successful relationship. Mr Parry-Smith has a successful family law practice. And he deals with a lot of these complex, marital, and family related problems. So he seemed to be very well positioned to do that. I'm not going to have a chance to go through the top 10 tips. But you're more than welcome to listen to that episode, where I interviewed Mr Parry-Smith to understand what are the key factors that lead us to having a more “harmonious marriage” between ourselves and the instructing party, which is typically a lawyer. I think the key takeaways were, in terms of top tips, to reply to instructing parties as soon as possible, particularly when it comes to inquiries. If you receive an inquiry, the ability to respond to it fast and how you handle that communication is really going to set the precedent, I think, for the instructing party to know, are they going to have any problems or issues with delays getting access to you, or your evidence in the future. I think you set your stall essentially with the speed and the effectiveness of your response to the inquiry. And also the neutral third party experts single joint expert is certainly something that can be very valuable to the system of managing expert evidence. It was certainly well received and well used by Mr. Perry Smith. So again, I'd recommend accessing that particular podcast so that you can get to this room, the real depths of understanding what is it that makes a relationship work really, really well. 


We then move on to legal updates, which were quite interesting, all really associated with the future pending costs management associated with personal injury and clinical negligence. and it's a lot of work in progress, it seems ultimately to reduce some of the costs associated with litigation, how and when they're going to be deployed is a bit of a challenge to determine. But it looks like in the next few years, there's going to be quite material change to the way in which the experts are being paid the proportionality of any they call associated costs with litigation, are managed in a way in which it appears to be fair, I mean, in my opinion, is that there's always going to be a downward pressure on costs associated with litigation considering how long it be these things can take. And I think it's always worth keeping that in mind when you're delivering your expert evidence to make sure that you are delivering your reports in an efficient and competitive ways so that you're constantly delivering a great service. I think if you continue to do that you kind of serve yourself and your practice well for the future, as you become more and more experienced. Lots of lots and lots of other tips from other speakers. Later in the afternoon, we learnt from Dr. Palmer, about how important it was to find the right expert for very complicated cases. And some of the techniques that they use to find experts is really interesting. I'm also going to quickly touch on some of the other important parts, which included having robust terms and conditions in place to make sure that you are protected as an expert, making sure that you have the expertise that you've created in your work as you're in your area of expertise, really well summarized, so that the instructing policy has the ability to quickly interpret your your background, and knowing that you're giving yourself the best chance rather than having this 30 page CV with everything you've done your whole life. Rather, what does an expert need to demonstrate in order to be instructed? And that's the question I would be asking myself when it comes to the lawyer friendly or instructing party when they're assessing your CV. Are they able to get to that information really quickly? And if you don't think they can, that's the time to start work reworking that CV, limiting it to those things that make it really, really easy to digest. Because ultimately, that will result in you attracting more work and, of course, building more momentum in your expert witness practice. It was a conclusion on costs by a senior cost judge, Mr. Gordon CEQA, which was a very interesting take on how costs for experts, what they want, what the judges want, how to present your fees, and your time records and how to budget your yourself so that you can demonstrate how your fees have been formed, really sounds like really basic and obvious things. But I think quite often missed by experts really basic ways in which you can demonstrate how your fee structure has been formed into some extent, and you can demonstrate some level of proportionality there. It’s on the basis of you delivering expert evidence, the rates at which you're typically doing this, there was a talk about the possibility of fixed fees in the future, or the possibility of limiting the duration of expert reports to 20 pages. But these are all things work in progress within the legal system. So hope that summary gives you a real good overview of my key learnings from the Bansal an expert witness conference. 


There will be another in November 2022. So if you're thinking about attending that, you know, now's probably the time to consider finding this conference and making sure that you attend, I think there was a split of about roughly half and half attending in person and half remotely. But I didn't think anything that for me personally matches the ability to really sit in a room and learn from others and speak to others over the breaks in the lunches which was really, really quite enjoyable. And I hope to see you at the next one. So if you do attend, please do find me, come and say hello, be great to learn more about you and your journey. I hope this session on summarizing my learnings was useful to you. I do tend to take quite extensive notes during the sessions. I find that the best way to really learn the most from these sessions is really being present in the room rather than being at home, I think is a big difference and making myself disciplined enough to write the actual notes rather than just listening and perhaps looking through the relevant slides. I think it's a great way to actually force yourself to learn and let that information sink deeply. That's certainly worked for me.


I hope it's been helpful to be sharing with you here and I hope you take some of those lessons into your next conference in person.


Resources:

  • Bond Solon Annual Conference 2022 - https://bondsolon.com/courses/annual-expert-witness-conference/
  • Introduction to Setting Up and Running a Successful Expert Witness Practice - https://bondsolon.com/courses/introduction-to-setting-up-and-running-a-successful-expert-witness-practice/