An attorney asks you to locate an expert witness for a case. How do you charge for this service – or do you? Do you locate the expert for free?
Options for Charging for Expert Witness Location
An LNC I’ve been coaching asked me about the fees to charge to locate an expert. We discussed 2 options:
- He could charge a flat fee for locating an expert, and then the expert would bill the attorney for his or her services.
- He could invoice for the expert’s hours throughout the case.
Then before sending a fee agreement to the attorney, he emailed me again to say, “When I mentioned what I was doing, there were SO SO many LNCs who said that they just refer MDs to attorneys for free that I am really confused. These LNCs say that it is worth doing it for free because it comes back full fold with more work and the good graces of the attorney.”
What Happens When you Work for Free?
Here’s my take on this. If you give away your services you
- devalue them,
- confuse attorneys who expect to pay for them, and
- can’t pay your bills.
It takes expertise to know what type of expert is best for the case and to determine what the case is about to be able to explain it to a potential candidate. It also takes expertise to answer the expert’s questions.
It takes time to make phone calls and collect information from the expert.
It takes money to make the calls and costs you money in the form of your time on something for which you aren’t asking to be paid.
Attorneys usually don’t have the expertise or time. They ask LNCs for help and they expect to pay for it one way or the other.
Giving away your services for free in the hopes of getting more work that the attorney expects you to do for free is not a sound business practice. It also makes it very difficult for LNCs who charge for this service because it sets up an expectation among attorneys that LNCs will find experts for free.
Are there times you should do something for free for an attorney? Yes, but only in extremely limited situations and only for strategic reasons.
“Like what?” you ask. Maybe once a year I’d give an expert to an attorney without charging because
- The attorney was an extremely good client.
- I knew an expert who was very well qualified (I did not have to do any work to locate the expert) and I did not have the expert under contract to bill through my company. Usually that happened because the expert charged a high hourly rate, too high for me to be able to add onto that rate.
The only reason to be in business is to make money.
If you are supplying experts and giving away your LNC services for free, you are losing income and your business is a hobby. I hate to see LNCs who have so much to offer their clients not be able to flourish.
Do I do things for free? Sure, I offer free webinars and podcasts to LNCs. But I also include a description of a new course or product in these programs. “Free” has to be strategic.