In any industry, business, or practice, one gets to know one’s colleagues/competitors. And, we have, in the past 30 years, seen the gamut of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Melissa started her career with Litigation Sciences, Inc. and many of the consultants who were affiliated with LSI remain among the top consultants in the country. There are many other highly educated, qualified consultants around the U.S. However, going forward on this post, I want to comment on some who fall into the bad and the ugly categories. Without naming names, I provide these examples because it sometimes seems clients do not fully understand the need to vet their potential consultants to ensure that the consultant being considered is indeed an expert and has valuable knowledge. We have known a consultant who regularly cut corners on research practices, who was unethical in the treatment of mock jurors and staff, and who changed research results as she saw fit. We have known someone who has only a GED as an educational qualification. We have known of a consultant who, while working on a contingency fee basis, reportedly (according to the plaintiff’s attorney for whom he was working) “cheerleaded” this attorney that the case was worth far more than it was (which was $0, i.e., a defense verdict). We’ve been undercut on a project bid by a consultant who was a paralegal, with no education beyond paralegal training – no college – no grad school – though she claimed both on the resumé she gave to clients. It surprises me how often I encounter clients, or potential clients, who have had to wade through the swamp of these unqualified and unethical consultants. Prompted by a recent conversation with an attorney, I just want to say, again: Trial consultants are not all the same! Because, unlike attorneys, there are few barriers to entry as a trial consultant, it is clearly the duty of the attorney who is considering hiring a consultant to do his or homework. The ultimate client is counting on it!
In every occupation, there exists a range of people, from the truly excellent to the amazingly inferior. The world of trial consulting is no exception to this general rule. I have a Ph.D. in social psychology and, given that a Ph.D. is the highest academic degree that exists (including M.D., D.D.S., D.O., J. D., E.D. and all the other D. one can name), it is impossible for anyone who works in any occupation, including as a trial consultant, to be more educated than I. I am not trying to be arrogant or condescending to anyone; I am just telling it like it is. I consider as my colleagues other Ph.D. level social psychologists, not trial consultants as a whole. In fact, I categorize myself as a social psychologist who consults with attorneys on litigation related issues. I could, and have, just as easily been a social psychologist who works in academia or health care, thus, I do not personally identify with most people who are trial consultants. For example, I have nothing in common with trial consultants I have met who: (1) possess, as a highest degree, a G.E.D., although she is a “good judge of other people’s character”; (2) used to be a salesperson in the garment district of a big city and knows how to “schmooze” with clients; (3) is a paralegal, fakes her credentials on her resume, and tries to steal my work product; (4) is hired, on a contingency basis, in violation of Florida Bar rules, after a successful career as a trial consultant following a not so stellar academic career; (5) allegedly has a Ph.D., but not in the area she claims and who fakes research results as she sees fit, mistreats mock jurors in violation of ethical standards of psychology, and commits other transgressions, both large and small, in her business; and (6) is an astrologer and who, according to self reports, knows exactly what a juror will do based on the jurors’ horoscope. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, trial consulting will never, at least in my opinion, be a prestigious career choice as long as there are no minimum standards for inclusion. My colleagues and I, however, will continue to provide excellent work to our clients regardless of what our competitors are doing. (Thanks, Mom, for everything you did to ensure I earned my Ph.D.)
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