I have been playing the bass guitar for almost 20 years and I am the proud owner of several bass guitars. I am not a collector; all of my basses are for my playing pleasure. As with many things in life, from time to time, one of my basses needs to be repaired, as was the situation recently. I have spent a lot of time around musicians, mostly guitarists; guitar techs; music store staff members; owners of music studios; etc. but I know only one luthier. For those who do not have any idea what or who a luthier is, a luthier is a person who makes stringed instruments, such as guitars. I do not have anything against guitar techs, who repair guitars, set up and test guitars before concerts, and perform many other valuable tasks. In fact, I have had my basses repaired by several highly professional and competent guitar techs. But, when given a choice between having my bass repaired by a guitar tech and a luthier, I strongly prefer to take my bass to a luthier. Even though the luthier I know makes beautiful, custom designed bass guitars, all of which are out of my price range, he treats my inexpensive bass guitars with respect and love. Watching him diagnose my bass’ problem is like watching an artist at work. And, I can always count on him to examine every facet of my bass, not just the broken part, not to mention cleaning it and making it look brand new. Why am I writing a post extolling the virtues of luthiers? I am writing a post about luthiers because seeing my old friend the luthier reminded me of the difference between having a trial consultant who, like the guitar tech, is mostly okay, good enough, and less expensive than other consultants instead of having the very best consultant one can find. Yes, there are jury/trial consultants who don’t have a Ph. D., who don’t have a lot of experience, and who cost a whole lot less than I do, but, is it to the attorney’s advantage, and in the best interests of the attorney’s client, to hire someone who’s merely “okay” when there is someone whose credentials and experience are unsurpassed? I think you know the answer.
I’ll have to say that, since Melissa started playing bass, I’ve learned quite a bit more than I knew about music, and the behind the scenes aspects of music, performers, and the business of music. I don’t know that I knew what a luthier was, for example. I also didn’t know how anything about the internal “guts” of a bass guitar. But, as Melissa’s journey has continued, I’ve learned more and come to appreciate the knowledge and skills of those who make the instruments work, and who build them. I have no parallels with photography because photographic equipment is much more mass produced, yes, there are skilled techs who fix things and I have seen them do fine work on very detailed level with cameras; even cleaning the sensor on a digital SLR is beyond me. But, when one observes someone who is truly an expert on anything, their expertise becomes obvious. In Melissa’s analogizing a luthier to a true expert I started thinking about how much we value clients that recognize the difference. Just this week, one of my associates came across a “hack” trial consultant who tried to give her advice that was obviously flawed. Many lawyers, and some of their clients, have been fooled by some of these hacks into thinking what they offer is “good enough” for their case. Maybe it is, for them. But, it seems to me, in the litigation world where one usually only gets one shot at getting it right, good enough should not be the acceptable standard. I find it hard to imagine, especially if a trial outcome was “bad,” that a lawyer or adjuster would admit they made the decision to hire a trial consultant, or any other expert – testifying or otherwise, who seemed “good enough” as opposed to being truly expert. When expertise matters, hire an expert.