Lawyers: The expert who knows the business best, ‘wins’

A panel of top-flight litigators followed the judges at the Chicago Divorce Summit, with candid comments on what they look for in financial experts:

•     “If I can get you to shave your report—you won’t work for me,” said Stephen Kolodny (Kolodny & Anteau, Beverly Hills). “Because that means you’ll shave it for someone else.” He also wants someone who will talk to him at all hours, if need be, and is proficient in e-technology.

•     “I’ll use consulting experts who are incredibly creative and smart and good analysts,” said Don Schiller (Schiller Ducanto and Fleck, Chicago). For testifying experts, he looks for good teachers; “someone who can take complex topics and spoon feed them in a convincing way.”

•     “I want someone who’s going to get me to think about things I might not otherwise—like different methodologies, or things that are wrong with the other expert’s report,” said Mark Sobel (Greenbaum Rowe Smith & Davis LLP, New Jersey). “I want to be educated on all the things I might miss, and I want it explained as imaginatively as possible” so that every one in the court can understand.

•     “I use the same experts again and again, because bottom line: they are good,” said Allen Mayefsky (Sharesky Aronson Mayefsky & Sloan LLP, New York City). They also don’t repeat themselves in report-after-report.  “They apply legitimate and justifiable concepts, but in a way that may be out of the box” but appropriate to the particular situation.

•    All else being equal, the expert who knows the business and the industry best will be the most persuasive in court, Schiller added.   Every one agreed that doing the traditional work of an appraiser—spending time on-site, talking to management, reviewing financials and management forecasts thoughtfully—is the essence of knowledge, and a key to coming out on the winning side.