Expert Article Library

Do I Need a Contract?

By Rosalie Hamilton

By: Rosalie Hamilton. Email: rhamilton@expertcommunications.com. Ms. Hamilton, Consultant, Speaker, and Author, is a marketing expert for those who engage in expert witness work. Click here today to order your copy of The Expert Witness Marketing Book.

Rosalie Hamilton Rosalie Hamilton is a leading authority on expert witness marketing and founder of Expert Communications. A consultant, speaker, and author, she is a marketing expert for those who engage in expert witness work.

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The answer to the question, "Do I need to have a contract for my expert consulting services," is most likely, "Yes."

A complaint heard frequently from experts is that they experience difficulty in collecting their fees. In almost every case the expert failed to get in writing, beforehand, the attorney's agreement to pay and/or he did not require a retainer prior to beginning work. (Examples of contracts, engagement letters and fee schedules are available in many books written specifically for the expert witness, including The Expert Witness Marketing Book.)

Sometimes an expert will hesitate to ask an attorney to sign an engagement letter or contract because he is concerned about possibly offending him. In truth, the attorney who scoffs at businesslike arrangements is much more likely to end the relationship in a decidedly non-businesslike manner. He may protest, after the work is done, that your rate is just too high and declare that he is going to pay you a lower rate. He may complain that you should have completed the work in a shorter length of time. Or, he may decline to pay you at all.

Some experts have a contract outlining the terms, a separate fee schedule, and an engagement letter. Others have a contract that contains a fee schedule and an engagement letter. Others combine all three functions into one document. Whatever contracting documents you decide to use should include at least the following information:

  • Fees
  • Expenses Policy
  • Retainer
  • Billing Schedule
  • Expected Payment Schedule

Without an engagement letter or contract you have very little recourse. Reporting unethical treatment to the attorney's bar association seems to have little effect. The option of suing the attorney is also a gamble. With a signed contract you should rarely experience a problem in collection and, in the event that you do, your chances of winning a dispute will be better.

Excepted with permission from The Expert Witness Marketing Book: How to Promote Your Forensic Practice in a Professional and Cost-Effective Manner, ©2003 by Rosalie Hamilton.