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Wendy Ampolsk

Everyone's an Expert

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All of us who are interested in criminal law have seen the “Battle of the Experts” ad nauseum. The prosecution trots out an “expert” with enough acronyms after his or her name to impress the entire courtroom, and a CV extraordinaire, and that person, under oath, states his and her opinion with great authority.

Next comes the opposing side’s “expert,” with an equal amount of acronyms and an equally impressive CV, who states the exact opposite under oath. Who do you believe? Who is truly an expert?

With that kind of question in mind, The Matrimonial Strategist this month is running a provocative, thought-provoking article entitled “The Failure of Peer Review,” by David A. Martindale and Jonathan Gould. The authors state, “We hope to create for the reader a healthy skepticism about the process, and shed light on assumptions that we believe are often made by colleagues, attorneys and judges about the academic rigor and scientific integrity of [the peer review process].

Although in this case the authors were aiming their warnings at matrimonial and family law attorneys, these same warnings apply throughout the area of law. Who really ARE your experts? Are they what they say they are? Do their CVs accurately reflect their careers in the field you are looking for? How do you know? Is there someone in your firm who has the time and the expertise to thoroughly search a potential expert’s background, and to learn exactly how he or she performs in the courtroom?

This is not meant in any way to demean a true “expert” who has spent long years in his or her field of expertise. But it’s easy to be fooled, and I wonder, as do the authors of the article mentioned above, whether in fact some attorneys and judges place too much faith in opinions that may not really be valid.

Something to think about?

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