How to stop the ‘hired gun’ question before it kills your financial expert’s credibility

Lawyers know what’s coming when they hear opposing counsel ask: “So … just how many times have you been hired by Mr. (or Ms.) Attorney?” Or worse—“Isn’t it true that you are his ‘go-to’ expert?”

The attorney is trying to paint the expert as a “hired gun,” of course (you’ve probably done it yourself)—but the next time that happens, counsel your expert to try this response: “I’ve worked on cases against the same attorney, too. Shall I tell you about them?”

One business appraiser who has used this approach under cross says the aggressive line of questioning “immediately stops.” Neil Beaton (Grant Thornton), who frequently speaks on litigation tactics (most recently at the AICPA’s National BV Conference in Las Vegas) believes that no expert will prevail if they can’t maintain a reputation of neutrality and credibility.

For that reason, Beaton suggests that lawyers don’t hire the same financial expert repeatedly (or exclusively). “You don’t want to have a hired gun working for you,” he said, even in smaller communities in which attorneys may not have as many choices among available experts. “So—how many times have you had dinner at Attorney X’s house?” can be a killer question, so try to keep your professional relationships as neutral as possible, too.