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Wanna be an expert?

Wanna be an expert?

Not a week goes by without a CV or two crossing my desk from someone who has been a project manager, an engineer, an architect, a quantity surveyor, or someone with some planning and delay analysis skills, who has decided that they are an expert.

A number of these applicants come with a great deal of enthusiasm, energy, and self-belief and they are ready to take the plunge into the heady world of providing expert reports. It will come as no surprise to readers of the Digest that not everyone who applies has those capabilities, and most, if not all, will require some focussed and detailed development in order to achieve the required levels of competency to provide expert testimony.

Author: Mark Wheeler, Chief Executive Officer, Head of Diales - Quantum and Technical Expert

There are several stages to our filtration process. The first of these is ensuring that people interested in pursuing this particular career have the required levels of experience in their own discipline, and the highest possible levels of technical competence.

It is unusual to lose a high number of candidates at this point as most will understand as a given, that these are the most basic and essential requirements. It is, however, surprising how many people fail at the next stage, which is solidly understanding what an expert does, their responsibilities (which are significant), and the level of work that goes into producing a good quality expert report.

The next stage of the process for our team is to explain in clear terms what those responsibilities might be. What will the level of work and effort be to produce a quality expert report?

Ultimately, what might it be like to be cross-examined in a Court or a Tribunal by someone who is highly skilled in that process, and will in all likelihood, disagree vehemently with your views?

We have arranged training days in the past, in which aspiring experts can, in a mock interview environment, experience what it is like to tread in an expert’s shoes. A number will drop out at this point or simply say that they have decided it is not for them. For the remainder, the following step is to ensure that they are fully trained and ready for their first assignment. This process involves ensuring that they have the skills required including report writing.

Writing a technical report, coming up with a solution for a client, and preparing a proposal is a completely different science to writing an expert report. There are numerous guidelines available to assist in this process in various practice directions, and through a number of industry institutions or bodies. However, it is surprising how challenging some aspiring experts find moving away from purely technical reports, that are often solution based, to providing expert opinion against a clear set of criteria and instructions. Once the written work is up to scratch there is a training programme for aspiring, and even established experts, to hone their court room skills and ensure that they are giving evidence in the right way - competently and clearly with a focus on their duties to the Court and Tribunal. This is the stage at which it is really important to gain some confidence, and also a stage at which many struggle to progress to an adequate standard.

The final stage, when you have reached the right level of competence is of course to take your first commission. This process will often involve being an assistant to an established expert on several occasions, in order to build relationships with instructing lawyers and clients. Diales experts find they are well supported during this stage, with an existing expert looking over all of their work product, providing advice and help to ensure quality is being delivered.

To be clear, the opinion is always that of the testifying expert, but when it is your first appointment, having a senior colleague to bounce things of off can be invaluable, and help in building confidence.

This process can take three or four years and is managed through the Diales Development Group, run by Keith Strutt, one of our most experienced experts. The criteria are clearly set out in detail, and an assessment on the 10 competencies is set out in an assessment form that maps progressively higher standards of experience and competence.

Experience shows that less than 1 in 10 of those applying to become an expert make it through the process to become an established testifying Diales expert. However, this should not put you off if you are considering this career step.

It is just as important to ensure that you are in the right environment and supported in training and development in a proactive way, so that you can achieve your aspirations and ensure that all the time invested ultimately comes to fruition for what can be, for those who succeed, a very rewarding pinnacle of their career. So, perhaps the final question is, are you ready to take that step?

This article was written for issue 25 of the Driver Trett Digest. To view the publication, please visit: www.driver-group.com/digest-issue-25



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