Consultants and Experts who are retained have varying levels of experience. However, they all want to complete the specified work on your case as quickly and efficiently as possible. Addressing the four (4) areas below should result in a mutually beneficial relationship with your consultant/expert and ultimately provide a better work product and overall experience.
1. Purpose of record review: Clearly communicate the purpose of the record review, i.e., case screening, report development as a next step in the litigation process, or serving as an expert. If a case review is requested, specify whether a verbal or written report is expected, and how in-depth a report is needed. What is the turnaround time for the work to be completed? Is there a statute of limitations involved? Are there any potential conflicts? Promptly address any questions or concerns posed by the consultant/expert to ensure clarity and avoid confusion.
2. Budget: Discuss rates and estimated number of hours for the case. The consultant/ expert will want to know the approximate volume and types of records to be reviewed. Hand written records and paper records usually require more time for review. How many hours does the consultant/expert estimate will be needed to complete the requested work? Does he/she charge an hourly rate or flat fee? What is included in the flat fee? Confirmation of fees letters generally include an agreed upon estimate of hours, with the stipulation that the attorney must approve additional hours. A word to the wise: agreeing to a dollar amount as well as the number of hours, establishes budget constraints.
3. Records transmission: Determine the best method for delivering the records. Are the records in electronic format or hard copy? Electronic files can be provided on a CD or sent via a HIPAA compliant program such as Sharefile or Hightail. Dropbox is another option. Depending on the volume of paper records, scanning them into an electronic file for transmission may be preferable to making copies and sending to a physical address.
As consultants/experts move to paperless offices, some of them add a surcharge for reviewing paper records.
4. Retainer and contracts: Identify the retainer amount and method of payment. The retainer needs to be received prior to the consultant/expert starting work on the case. Larger cases may require retainer replenishments for him/her to continue to work on the case. Retainers for testimony appearances need to be paid prior to the date of the deposition or trial. Requesting written confirmation from the consultant/expert is a way to verify the agreed upon verbal terms.
Confirming the scope of work, deadline, budgeted hours/fee schedule, records transmission/receipt, and retainer amount/replenishment schedule should make the interaction positive and avoid pitfalls.
Communication is a key component between your office and the consultant/expert. Establishing a collaborative approach where all members of the litigation team are working together fosters an environment that benefits your staff, your client, and your consultant/ expert.