How to Find and Research Experts on the Internet
A variety of search engines and data sites provide attorneys with ample resources
By Carole Levitt
Carole Levitt is an attorney and president of Internet For Lawyers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At one or more times in their careers, most attorneys will need to locate an expert for trial or pretrial consultation. Even when attorneys find an expert by personal referral, thus avoiding a search, they still often face the chore of conducting due diligence to verify credentials. Finding and checking an expert, however, has become less of a burden since the appearance of numerous online sources—and many of them are free.
Expert witness databases, searchable by expert name, location, and expertise, are the place to start. Some additional Internet resources are usenet posts, discussion groups, jury verdicts, depositions, case law, directories, trade or professional association sites, library catalogs, indices to articles and university sites, and sites that are maintained by individual experts. In Los Angeles, attorneys can consult the Association’s online expert database, Expert4law (www.expert4law.org/). The site contains six databases: experts and consultants, a lawyer-to-lawyer consultants network, legal support services, alternative dispute resolution, research and publishing, and law office technology. Expert4law offers focused searches, including key word, location, and a combination thereof. It also supports Boolean operators (“and,” “or,” “not”) to make the search more precise. The results offer full contact information, which contains a link to the expert’s Web site and a list of all specialties, degrees, and licenses. At the Association’s site one can also find an excellent overview on the effective use of an expert (www.expert4law.org/ewc/bestuse.html). Experts register themselves on this site for $300.
In addition, the Association’s Lawyer to Lawyer Consultants Network (www.expert4law.org/l2l/) can help an attorney who is seeking a local attorney for consultation. For a national or international search, try Martindale Hubbell at http://martindale.com/, which costs nothing and can be performed by practice area, language spoken, and country. Attorneys in the United States and Canada pay nothing for a basic listing with Martindale Hubbell, but these free, basic listings are only searchable by attorney name, law school attended, and city and state. Paid listings are searchable by firm size, memberships, practice area, language spoken, and country. When I made a sample search on Martindale Hubbell for English-speaking family law attorneys in Argentina, I was able to obtain several listings.
While most expert sites display the expert’s contact information for free, TASA (http://www.tasanet.com), a site with 8,000 areas of expertise represented, does not. Instead, TASA displays only the number of experts in the selected field and their geographic location. Users are then required to call or e-mail TASA for the experts’ names and contact information. This is how TASA monitors usage in order to add its flat fee to an expert’s hourly rate. Experts do not pay to be listed.
Another site, Law.com, has an expert database (http://experts.law.com/) that is free to users, but experts in the database pay $495 per year for a national listing and $295 per year for a single state listing. After searching by an area of expertise, the user will find a list of national experts along with a menu that allows the user to limit the search to a specific state.
Learning the Terrain
Before seeking an expert, some attorneys may want to familiarize themselves with the area of specialty first. Going to a library’s online catalog (Los Angeles Public Library, for example, at www.lapl.org) and searching by subject can lead to some of the literature in the specialty. The literature search also may assist in determining the top experts in the field. Articles on a topic or by a known expert can also be found online. For example, if an attorney has a case dealing with toxic mold and stachybotrys, a search of medical literature at the government’s National Library of Medicine (NLM) site is in order. By using the NLM gateway (gateway.nlm.nih.gov/gw/Cmd), an attorney can conduct a simultaneous search through a plethora of NLM publications. A results list for a sample search for toxic mold and stachybotrys showed 17 abstracts in PubMed. If checking on a recommended expert or following a search with results in which one name features prominently, one can also search by author (using last name only or last name and first name initial—in medical citation, the author’s first name is never used). If the articles are available free, PubMed will include the link to them; otherwise one can order the article for a fee.
Attorneys who need an expert in an uncommon field or who simply do not know where to start a search for an expert can consult a database of associations. The Encyclopedia of Associations database is accessible to anyone with a Los Angeles Public Library card, and with it one can find associations that specialize in almost any field. (There are groups for every profession and interest, from chewing gum to bananas.) If the association has a URL listed, one can discover if the site provides a list of research links. The site may also have a list of the association’s officers and their e-mail links. Attorneys can then contact the officers for a referral to an expert. As an alternative, one can simply use the contact information in the encyclopedia listing to call the association and ask for a referral.
Referrals provide names, and with those and associated topics other searches can yield important information. For nationwide newspaper and magazine searches, use Lexis or Westlaw. In addition, the Internet is a perfect source to access smaller newspapers that may not be included in Lexis or Westlaw but have articles by or about the expert available free or in low-cost databases. A list of newspaper URLs can be found at emedia1.mediainfo.com/emedia/USimagemap.html or www.ceoexpress.com. Another search engine for articles is Northern Light (www.northernlight.com/search.html), which indexes more than 7,000 journal and newspaper articles.
Academic and Other Sources
Experts also can be found in academia. The Big Ten Plus site (http://purduenews.uns.purdue.edu/UNS/bigten+/) contains a searchable database of professors claiming expertise. Experts who are professors can have their academic background checked with a search at their institution’s site. Frequently, academic Web sites include the resume, list of classes taught, and articles written by each faculty member. This enables a lawyer who is searching for an expert to find and eliminate candidates. To find any university’s URL, see Trackem (www.trackem.net/) and scroll down to “College E-Mail Search Form” (the term “e-mail” is misleading; the form responds with URLs).
It is often important to learn if an expert’s opinion has been consistent in other trials, depositions, and public forums. Conference papers can sometimes be found on the Internet by typing the expert’s name into a few general-purpose search engines such as Google. This is also a way to capture any extra nuggets of information—such as links to the expert’s personal Web site, discussion group messages sent by the expert, or any references to the expert on a discussion group or site. Google Groups (http://groups.google.com/) can find posts written by the expert or discussing the expert. This feature, which is separate from the general-purpose search engine, contains over 500 million posts dating back to 1995.
For every query, users should conduct three searches on Google’s Advanced Search page (http://www.google.com/advanced_search?hl=en). First, search with the expert’s name in the author field, then search with the name in the key word field, and then use the expert’s e-mail address in the author field. Keep in mind that many people have more than one e-mail address. Google Groups can then be used to search by topic to find other experts or to find people who may have encountered the same situation as your client (e.g., “Firestone tires” may be entered as a search term into Google Groups).
Jury verdict reporter databases, which contain only those verdicts that an attorney reports to the database publisher, can be searched by name or key words. By searching for an expert’s name, one may discover whether the expert has given opposing opinions in similar cases, appears more often as a defense witness, or has usually testified for the winning side. The attorneys involved in the cases are also listed in the jury verdict database and may provide information about their experience with the expert.
Online jury verdicts can be found at the Los Angeles Daily Journal’s site (http://www.dailyjournal.com), but access is limited to print subscribers only. Another site where jury verdicts may be found is the National Association of State Jury Verdict Publishers (NASJVP, www.juryverdicts.com/). Users may also search an alphabetical listing of experts and click on the expert’s name to be referred to the NASJVP member who has detailed information.
An expert’s name may appear in a reported opinion, and reported opinions can be searched for free. To find cases using a known expert’s name, type in the name alone or add relevant key words. If searching for an expert, type “expert” along with the expertise sought or key words. For free case law searching, try Lexis One (www.lexisone.com) or Findlaw (www.findlaw.com), but to conduct retrospective or nationwide searches it is best to use the major players, Lexis or Westlaw. Expert witness databases also can be found at these two sites.
Reading an expert’s deposition can provide an abundance of information about how the expert may perform. At Depo Connect (www.depoconnect.com/), plaintiffs’ attorneys can access over 73,000 online depositions, briefs, pleadings, seminar papers, verdicts, and settlements. This costs $195 a year and $30 per document. Depo Connect also has a private discussion group for attorneys to share information. Briefs can also be found at Brief Reporter (www.briefreporter.com/), where searching is free, with fees of $10 per document and $35 per month.
In the end it is critical to meet face-to-face with expert trial witnesses not only to prepare them for trial but also to assess how a jury may react upon observing their demeanor and body language. As much as we hate to admit it, people (including jurors) often judge others by their demeanor, their body language, and their physical attributes. To hear the expert’s voice or to watch the expert in action even before the initial contact, visit the expert’s site and look for a photo, streaming audio, or video. Juris Pro (www.jurispro.com) is a free expert database that provides this as well.