Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Surviving on Cross-Exam: Tips for Expert Witnesses

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Surviving on Cross-Exam: Tips for Expert Witnesses

Article excerpt

Understanding the cross-examiner's objectives can help an expert witness prepare to take the stand. It is not difficult to identify foundational principles that, if properly understood and applied, allow you to "survive" cross-examination. Here are seven tips for forensic and valuation services accountants who serve as expert witnesses.

[check] Understand the expert's role in the case. Juries place a good deal of faith in expert witnesses, and even judges are generally receptive to such testimony when the critical issues in a case are beyond the scope of their experience and understanding. But nobody wants another advocate. Making concessions where necessary looks more impartial than vehemently resisting every inquiry. On the other hand, people like educators/teachers. The appearance of an impartial educator with a professional manner can be invaluable.

[check] Prepare. Preparation is key to surviving even the most carefully crafted cross-examination. The cross-examiner will likely ask only questions to which he or she already knows the answer. Anticipating questions ahead of time and thinking through the answers goes a long way toward withstanding cross-examination.

[check] Do not underestimate the crossexaminer. A skilled trial lawyer's review of an expert's written work and prior testimony is an essential part of his or her preparation. Electronic databanks and public records requests make it easy to see what an expert has said in the past. Assume that the cross-examiner has, at least on the issues to be addressed at trial, developed an expertise equivalent to yours and knowledge of the relevant facts superior to yours.

[check] Control yourself. Take nothing personally. Suggestions of incompetence or sloth may be designed to anger you or to destroy your professional air. Remain courteous but firm. Similarly, be prepared to testify about your hourly rate and the cost of your work. Do not be embarrassed by, or defensive about, the level of compensation, particularly if you have successfully imparted to the jury on direct examination the full scope of your work and the time required to conduct the expert analysis properly. …

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