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Retainer Agreements Provide Details of Services for Expert Witness

The retainer agreement that an expert witness negotiates with the lawyer that hires him or her is the contractual document that provides the details for the services, expenses and other items the professional will experience for the case. The information in the paperwork is crucial to provide income to the expert and reimburse him or her for all costs related to the case.

What Is a Retainer Agreement?

When an expert witness becomes another professional in the case, he or she will usually enter into a retainer agreement with the lawyer that explains certain details of the arrangement for the case. These generally specify what services the expert will provide, and for which amount of income. Other details may explain which expenses the professional will receive reimbursement for when using his or her own funds such as making copies of paperwork, lodging, rental car costs, gas and food. Most of these items only exist because of the case and have a provision within the retainer agreement.

Why Enter into a Retainer Agreement?

One of the greatest concerns expert witnesses have when becoming part of a case is that they will not receive payment or reimbursement for various costs and services. The retainer agreement
holds the lawyer responsible for payment of these items in a legally binding way. While the two professionals may negotiate the terms, a breach of the contract could lead to a lawsuit against the lawyer or legal team for just and reasonable compensation for the services rendered. Many experts help with a case for weeks or months, and others are part of the legal team for years.

The Purpose of the Retainer Agreement

While the importance of the retainer agreement is generally to supply the professional with a binding contract for payment with his or her services to the lawyer, the purpose may provide a different provision. The normal reason to use a retainer agreement with the lawyer is to clarify and explain the roles, duties and responsibilities of the expert and lawyer in the courts. The written document could help each party avoid confusion and misunderstandings with the services and necessary responsibilities each has with the situation. All terms each person agrees upon are within this paperwork.

There are specific provisions within the document that are necessary. These may include the scope of services and what the expert should not do such as communicate with the opposing lawyer that could cause a conflict of interest. The fees attached to services and what the expert does are usually either paid for within a timeframe or through reimbursement when paid for by the professional. Both the scope of services and the fees have a connection when the expert is performing his or her necessary duties such as making copies of the legal documentation and traveling to acquire witness statements or to test evidence.

Protection and Understanding

The expert witness attached to a case uses a retention agreement to protect his or her earing of income with the lawyer. While the legal team may have only so much of a budget, the expert will need monetary compensation for time and other expenses. This is part of the retention agreement. Another protection in the contractual paperwork is the time of payment. The professional may use the report created for the case as a bargaining chip in ensuring he or she does receive payment as specified by the retention agreement. If the expert does not acquire the income at the right time, he or she could abandon the case or will know how to deal with the legal team.

When money is not the problem, the retention agreement may help everyone involved in the case understand what the expert will do and what he or she does not need to accomplish as specified by the scope of services. Additional time and energy are not a needed component for the case when the agreement explains that the professional only needs to complete certain tasks. This also protects the expert from using more time or money than the contract states.

The Conflict of Interest

There are some rare occasions that the expert will become involved in a conflict of interest that could lead to a disqualification in the case. The retention agreement may specify how to handle the conflict and what, if any, consequences the professional will suffer from the conflict. This may even include the situation of a switch from one legal team to another by the expert.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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