Expert Witness and Arbitrator Knowledge Management After the COVID-19 Pandemic
Obtaining recommendations and information about expert witnesses and arbitrators is a critical element of the litigation process. Despite the importance of such data, many attorneys trust outdated and ineffective methods of communication which leads to significant risks for the organization and for the client. As a result of the current disruption facing the legal industry, law firms are benefiting from knowledge management investments and lawyers are recognizing the importance of such systems. This new work environment presents all firms with an opportunity to improve their internal knowledge sharing processes and technologies.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a common refrain heard by attorneys was: “Why do I need a knowledge system when I can just walk down the hall and talk to my colleagues?” This is obviously no longer an immediate option and that approach may be severely limited in the future as law firms adjust their office space requirements and remote work policies. The other common method historically used by many attorneys seeking recommendations and comments about experts and arbitrators was email communications.
“PTI: Who can recommend an expert to opine on the validity of a patent related to 802.11 WiFi standards?”
“RFI: Who has experience working with these ten proposed arbitrators?”
Even when attorneys are working from their offices, relying on personal discussions and email communications is problematic for several reasons.:
- Colleagues who previously worked with the person may have left the firm.
- Colleagues with relevant information to consider may not reply to the request in a timely fashion, if at all.
- If information is received, it is not shared with others at the firm.
- Relevant information is not recorded and therefore not accessible for future use.
A lack of information sharing often leads to problems. For example, when lawyers cross-examine an expert witness, the lawyers may not realize that the firm has hired that expert on previous engagements. Similarly, attorneys may not know that a certain arbitrator was previously avoided due to a plaintiff or defense bias noted by colleagues with prior experience.
A much better approach is to invest in the workflow and technology required to establish an internal expert witness and arbitrator knowledge management system. Critical components of such a system include the following:
- An historical record of experts and neutrals used by the firm even if the case attorney no longer works there.
- Easily referenced list of attorneys who have worked with each expert witness and neutral including their comments, if available.
- Organized research in a central location accessible by all potential researchers including Librarians, Knowledge Management Professionals, Paralegals and Associates.
Larger firms may also consider how such a system may integrate with other internal software such as a matter management system or litigation portal. These types of systems make critical information directly accessible by the attorneys who need it most.
One potential silver lining from this pandemic is that lawyers and firms have demonstrated the ability to adapt and embrace new processes and technologies as never before. Expert witness and arbitrator knowledge management fits directly into this new reality and is worth the investment. Organizations that invest in the people, process, and technology to create advanced knowledge management systems will reap the rewards for years to come.
Courtroom Insight has evolved from a simple public review site into a sophisticated Litigation Knowledge Management platform. Our unique approach is designed specifically for expert witness and arbitrator knowledge management. Please Contact Us to learn more about how our solution may benefit your law firm, legal organization, or insurance company.