I have written about the challenge in knowing how to select a trial consultant. This is a topic which causes frustrations because there are more and more trial consultants all the time and the qualifications vary from qualified to clearly, not at all qualified. But, while this is apparent to me, it is often not clear to attorneys and their clients, especially those who are cost driven. Unfortunately, engaging trial consultants is a buyer beware shopping experience. I was reminded of one measure of qualifications recently when reading the August 31, 2015 Time Magazine article entitled “Modern science has a publish or perish problem.” The article pointed out that “no more than 20% of scientists have a peer-reviewed paper to their name.” These are researchers in many fields, in both industry and academic settings. And, while publishing is virtually required for academics, in the “real world” of industry it is less common. In the trial consulting field it is certainly not the norm; probably less than the 20% noted in the article have published any research findings. However, the most qualified trial consultants have published peer reviewed articles and/or books. When hiring a trial consultant one should be seeking an expert. Specifically, what is needed is expertise in psychology/sociology, research methods, legal decision making, and human behavior. One indicator of expertise is publications which indicate that other experts have recognized the expertise of the author (consultant). It seems myopic to me to spend any amount of money on a trial consultant who does not possess expertise; it short changes the client and can lead to negative outcomes. Therefore, when shopping for a service which is as intangible as trial consulting services are (and legal services, for that matter), look for signs of expertise – one of those being peer-reviewed publications. (Publications in non peer reviewed publications are inadequate in this context of defining expertise, though it is likely that those with peer reviewed articles may also have articles in both types of publications.) And, now for the self serving part, I will point out that my business partner has nearly 30 peer reviewed publications or presented papers along with 2 books in the area of psychology and the law. As a social scientist, specifically, a social psychologist, in a non academic setting, this is remarkable, and a point of differentiation.
Peer review is one of the hallmarks of any scientific endeavor. In scientific and other academic circles, it is not enough to write an article or book. A scientist has to go beyond merely forming a hypothesis, designing research, conducting research, analyzing data, and writing a report of the findings; a scientist’s original work has to be examined by numerous colleagues, that is, peers, in order to determine whether the findings warrant publication in a professional journal. Some professions, including the legal profession, have “pay journals” in which almost anyone can write an article, then pay a fee for its publication. I have frequently been asked to submit articles to these types of journals, and my answer is always, “no” because, as a scientist, I do not wish to tarnish my good reputation with these kinds of writings. Although I have agreed to have short articles or transcriptions of presentations published in law journals, the majority of my publications have been in prestigious scientific journals that are subjected to rigorous peer review prior to publication. Relatively few academics (college professors) have as many significant publications as me and I am one of a handful of jury consultants with both a Ph.D. and numerous publications to my credit. It always amazes me that some of Magnus’ potential clients (not to mention many people I know) just don’t “get it.” These people have no idea how rare it is to get one article (or book) published, such that they fail to understand what differentiates someone like me, with high credentials, from the run of the mill person who thinks he or she can be a good jury consultant because he or she is a good judge of character. All things being equal, if I were an attorney engaged in high stakes litigation, I would prefer my expert to actually have some expertise! And, if this post sounds like I am tooting my own horn, I will remind the reader of something Jaco Pastorius (the late, great bass player) often said, “it ain’t bragging if it’s true.”