How to be a "go-to" expert witness

The very dynamic James J. Mangraviti (SEAK Inc.) recently held a two-day seminar in San Francisco on “How to Be a Successful and Effective Expert Witness.” The workshop, organized by the Northern California chapter of the ASA, taught appraisers of all stripes, including business valuators, about the expert’s role in civil litigation and gave hands-on training on how to handle depositions and cross-examinations. It also instructed attendees on marketing and practice management.

Expert as teacher: The best experts see themselves as teachers, he says. They approach questioning as an opportunity to help the jury understand complex and uncommon issues. A successful expert connects with jurors and exhibits sensitivity for what works and what doesn’t work in the courtroom. (Hint: Be careful about telling jokes!) Also, says Mangraviti, there is a razor-thin line between appearing confident—an attribute jurors and the retaining attorney appreciate—and coming across as arrogant—an attitude an expert wants to avoid.

Mangraviti points out that business valuators face an extra challenge because they are asked to discuss topics that strike a lot of jury members as inherently “dry” and incomprehensible. The best way to overcome this handicap is by having a genuine interest in what you do and using language laypersons can understand.

For more coverage on the expert witness conference, see the March 19 issue of BVWire (free registration required).