Malcolm Gladwell makes the argument that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. If that is the case, then it should take you about 5 years of working on that one thing if we consider a 40 hour work week and 2 weeks vacation per year.
If that is the case, then there are a lot of experts in the world. Using your expertise to make money is where things become a little more difficult. Let us take you through the process our engineering firm went through, as well as some of the difficulties involved with becoming and expert witness.
The first rule of becoming an expert witness is that you should first truly be an expert. Take the time necessary to learn your skill. Our engineering firm worked in the field of consulting engineering for more than 15 years before we started to be viewed and approached as experts in that field.
One of our first cases was in an area that we had spent thousands of hours designing and patenting products. It is hard to get your first case since most people want experience in court, but it helps when you have several designs and patents in the field and have put in the time necessary. So if you still have not had your first case, work on your expertise in the area or work on your sales skills. You will need one or the other to get your first case.
You need to go above and beyond on your first case because your reputation, efforts and success will be the determining factor in providing referrals. Referrals will eventually be one of the biggest sources of additional cases.
Be sure to get listed on all of the expert witness sites available. While this will cost you a few thousand dollars that can easily be offset by a couple cases. Expert witness work is interesting in that the value tied to an expert is often a direct correlation to the price that you charge. If you are good, don’t short change yourself. It will have the opposite effect of what you think it will have.
The last piece of advice on building yourself as a successful expert witness is never just take a case because someone is willing to hire you. Always examine both sides first and only take the cases that you are in agreement with the side that wants to hire you. It is easy to jump at the first opportunity you get, but it will be easier to get continued business from winning cases.