Aaron Larson is a program attorney with the Institute of Continuing Legal Education in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he develops courses in the areas of litigation and family law. His legal practice specialties include appellate practice, litigation, and family law.
|The Internet provides a convenient interface for experts and attorneys to find each other, through mailing lists, online directories, and through traditional referral services. This article presents an overview of the process by which a legal professional may locate an expert through the internet.
The Web sites mentioned herein are examples of what is available, and represent only a small percentage of available sources on the internet. If you wish to review additional expert witness resources, please consult the Northern California Association of Law Libraries (NOCALL) Web site (http://www.nocall.org/experts.htm), a well-maintained list of the leading sources of experts on the internet, and FindLaw.com’s expert witness information (http://www.findlaw.com/13experts/).
Expert Witness Directories
There are a growing number of directories of expert witnesses, available through the Internet. Some services allow experts to list their websites in a public directory, at no cost. Attorneys may search these directories for free, without incurring any referral fees. The most significant free directories are Findlaw.com, and Yahoo!, and ExpertLaw.com. Findlaw is an ambitious legal database, offering extensive expert witness listings. Expertlaw is a specialized database, oriented toward litigators, with a highly organized directory of expert witness websites. Yahoo! includes a significant number of expert witness websites and resources. Another legal directory, Heiros Gamos, maintains a directory of expert witnesses who are frequent advertisers in major legal magazines, as well as its own “self-listing” database of expert witnesses.
There are several noteworthy internet directories which charge expert witnesses a monthly or annual fee for inclusion. Their databases can be searched by attorneys at no cost, and there are no referral fees. The three most comprehensive websites of this type are LawInfo, The ExpertPages, and Claims Providers of America. LawInfo and the ExpertPages operate exclusively on-line, whereas the Claims Providers directory is the internet edition of a printed directory. A number of regional bar associations maintain expert witness directories, including the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and the Bar Association of San Francisco.
There are also membership organizations which maintain databases of expert witness information for their members. The most prominent sites of this type include the Expert Witness Network, and the online interface to the IDEX service. The Expert Witness Network is available to attorneys either on a membership basis (with unlimited access) or a per-use basis (with a search fee). IDEX is available to defense attorneys, and charges both a membership fee and a fee for each search performed by a member.
Expert referral services also operate on the internet, in growing numbers. Some services allow attorneys to search a database of expert witness resumes at no cost, providing contact information either upon payment of a fee by the attorney. The referral service charges a fee for connecting the expert with the witness. Maritime & Aviation Consultants maintains a specialized expert witness database of this type. Traditional referral services, such as TASA and American Medical Forensic Specialists (AMFS), provide the attorney with information about experts who agree to pay the service either a “finders fee” or a percentage of their billings if retained, are also available through the internet.
There are numerous directories on the Internet, containing information about people who wish to be consulted as experts by the media, who wish to be hired as speakers, or who are available as business or technical consultants. Many universities maintain directories of their faculties, primarily for use by members of the media. For example, fifteen universities have created a collective database of their faculties, Big Ten Plus, to help journalists find academic experts.
While some of the people included in these directories may not be actively seeking work as expert witnesses, many will have qualifications and experience which make them suitable for use as expert witnesses. Notable examples of consultant directories include the Noble Group’s Experts.com, the American Society for Testing & Materials (ASTM) directory of experts and consultants, and the Expert Marketplace.
Mailing Lists & Usenet
Many legal organizations, including the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) and Findlaw, offer email “mailing lists” directed at attorneys. Additionally, there are mailing lists directed at both attorneys and experts, such as Expert-L, maintained by LERN. Attorneys frequently use these lists to request referrals to potential expert witnesses. You may locate mailing lists on esoteric and technical subjects through directories such as The Directory of Scholarly and Professional E-Conferences, but you should be very careful about soliciting expert witnesses through mailing lists not intended for that purpose.
You may also seek experts through Usenet, an enormous collection of public email discussions called “newsgroups.” You can read and post to the newsgroups without subscribing, as you would to a mailing list on a listserv. As with mailing lists, you should take particular care to post only to appropriate newsgroups. If you have “news reader” software from your internet service provider, you may read and post to Usenet with that software. You may also read, post, and search enormous archives of Usenet postings through free on-line services such as Deja News.
Internet search engines provide yet another source of expert witnesses. If used properly, a search engine can uncover experts and potential experts whose sites are not listed in any on-line directory. A search may also uncover a person with exceptional qualifications, who has never before testified as an expert witness. Many university professors have Web sites containing their resumes and academic qualifications, and many scientific and forensic discussion groups are archived on the internet. Among the more popular search engines are AltaVista, HotBot, Excite, InfoSeek, and Northern Light.
You should note that each search engine will produce a different list of “matching” Web sites. Also, new Web sites are added to the search engines every day. Most search engines recognize the use of quotation marks, and offer “advanced search” options which help you narrow your search to the most relevant pages. When looking for experts, it is often helpful to include the search term “expert witness” (in quotation marks), along with any other search criteria. For the best results, it helpful to learn and use a search engine’s advanced search features.
The internet also provides tools to verify the credentials of experts. The previously described IDEX service offers access to deposition transcripts and bibliographies of experts’ publications. Similar information is available to ATLA members through its website. The National Expert Transcript Service (NETS) and NetCourt also sell expert witness transcripts, with no membership requirement.
Many newspapers provide searchable archives of their articles on the internet, some of which may be located through search engines such as Excite and AltaVista. You may also search for Web sites that mention the expert by running the name of the expert witness (in quotation marks) as a search term. A search of Deja News may reveal discussion about the expert, or even statements by the expert, from Usenet newsgroups. The Northern Light search engine contains a “special collection” of articles, including articles from technical journals, available to its users for a small fee. Conducting the search is free, and you cannot accidentally purchase an article, so it is worth checking to see if that service includes articles by a particular expert.
You may search for books by the expert, either through the large online bookstores, including Amazon.com and Borders, or through a used books database such as the Advanced Book Exchange. University libraries usually have an online interface to their collections. If you know the University the expert attended, you may even be able to locate a copy of the expert’s dissertation.
If you are aware of prior litigation involving the expert, you may wish to contact the attorneys involved in that litigation, whether for a reference or to request copies of reports or transcripts. Most attorneys can be located through Martindale-Hubbell or the West Legal Directory.
I read with interest the subject article, which was forwarded to me by a friend. I was surprised to find that the article makes no mention of the website of the National Association of State Jury Verdict Publishers ( http://www.juryverdicts.com ), which includes a “no charge” directory of more than 25,000 experts who have testified in civil jury trial across the U.S. in the last 5 years. The NASJVP is an organization of roughly two dozen independent businesses who publish state-specific civil jury verdict case summaries in weekly and monthly newsletters. These summaries highlight the case name/number, venue, judge, trial attorneys, expert witnesses, and include a paragraph outlining the factual and legal allegations. The directory shows which NASJVP Members have “cases testified” information on each expert, and links you to that Member’s website and/or e-mail, where copies of the case summaries may be purchased. This information is a major litigation tool for evaluating the strengths/weaknesses of your–or your opponent’s–expert witness. The NASJVP expert directory has been available since July 1998, and is updated weekly with new expert names.
Sincerely, John Kirkton
Cook County Jury Verdict Reporter