Expanding your services: training to be an expert witness

Establishing yourself formally will allow you to differentiate yourself in both practice and industry

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An expert witness can be anyone with knowledge or experience of a particular field or discipline beyond that to be expected of a layman. The expert witness’s duty is to give to the court or tribunal an impartial opinion on particular aspects of matters within their expertise which are in dispute and in accordance with the instructions they are given. These instructions will be shown in the Expert Witness’s Report which will be seen by the other side and the court.

An expert witness is required to provide truthful, impartial and independent opinions on the subject matter, and they do not provide opinion beyond their specific area of expertise. Expert evidence is invaluable in assisting courts when arguments become technical or specialist. As a result, solicitors instructing an expert witness must take great care when selecting the right person.

Technical knowledge

Having technical expertise in the area relevant to the case is the starting point when considering the career of an expert witness. Bringing out both the variety and depth of your experience from work and projects you have undertaken is likely to give you an advantage.

As an accountant, you could assist in cases relating to:

  • asset valuation in divorce-related disputes
  • valuations in commercial sales and acquisitions
  • rent reviews in lease contract disputes
  • estate valuations in probate cases, forensic fraud cases and insolvencies
  • tax cases involving specialist R&D claims and capital allowances claims
  • actuarial valuations
  • financial negligence cases.

Demonstrate your expert credentials

It is expected that as an accomplished expert you will be able to demonstrate your qualifications that go with your experience. Verifiable and measurable technical and professional credentials, such as professional qualifications, membership of professional and industry bodies, authored publications and professional appointments need to be highlighted.

The relevance of your ACCA qualification and membership is evident in satisfying this requirement and will be a definitive advantage.

Report writing skills that meets the court requirements

Expert experience and verifiable credentials are unfortunately not enough. Having expert witness experience is needed to write the expert report in a way that meets the court requirements in the highly regulated process of giving formal expert evidence.

If you currently don’t have experience as an expert witness, consider support roles that could give you exposure to the court process. Cultivating and capitalising on professional relationships with solicitors or other professionals you may have assisted in the past could develop into longer term hands-on engagements where you may have the opportunity to observe and contribute in the court evidence process and gradually take this role on independently.

Relevant training

Whist having experience as an expert witness is likely to be required for most solicitors looking to instruct an expert witness, having cross-examination experience in court is unlikely to be a requirement.

While public practice work is unlikely to offer many opportunities to gain in-court cross-examination experience, undertaking relevant training will, to an extent, prepare you for the challenging court room environment.

Contrary to many other career paths, you can start your expert witness training with a short and inexpensive course provided by the Academy of Experts; ACCA members will be offered discounted course rates.

The two or three day courses – which can be undertaken separately or as a series – will cover everything you should know to demonstrate best practice as an expert witness. Expert determiner courses are also available.