Updated on January 14th, 2023
An expert witness retainer agreement secures the services of a professional expert to provide evidence in support of an attorney’s case. The completed contract will lay out the scope, duration, and compensation for the expert’s work, including the retainer fee. The expert will usually need to provide research-based testimony in court to support the attorney’s case. For this reason, the agreement will spell out whatever advanced preparation and research will be necessary before their evidence is presented.
An expert witness is a specialist who is hired by an attorney/firm to provide testimony, research, or consulting for a legal case. In general, the expert will be required to present evidence in the form of an expert opinion, analysis of evidence, or a research-based report at a court trial or disposition.
- Conducting experiments
- Forming and presenting a professional opinion
- Performing scientific tests on evidence
- Professional consultation
- Reconstructing the circumstances of a crime or event
- Report writing
- Reviewing documents
To protect the interests of the attorney and expert witness, retainer agreements will include the below information.
The agreement must specify the expert’s services and whether they will be required to testify in court or are only needed for report-writing or consultation. It will also need to include any preparation, materials, research, and report writing that the witness is required to complete. Deadlines for their work and presentations must also be specified.
The expert’s rates for work in-court and out-of-court must be included in the contract. The attorney may be billed a flat fee, hourly (or incremental) rate, or a combination of the two. The expert may also require that certain expenses be covered, such as research, travel, and mailing costs.
It is important that the agreement includes a confidentiality clause stating that communications between the attorney and expert are confidential and all case materials will be returned after the trial is finished. This prevents the expert from discussing the case with any outside parties without conferring with the attorney beforehand.
A termination clause helps to ensure that the attorney and expert can end the agreement without serious conflict. For instance, the contract may be canceled if the expert misses a deadline, fails to complete a report, or the attorney doesn’t compensate them as agreed.
For expert witnesses, a signed contract ensures they’ll receive full compensation for their expertise. A retainer also guarantees a minimum payment even if their full services aren’t ultimately required. Furthermore, by clearly specifying the services and preparation required, the expert can keep the option to withdraw from the case if the attorney breaks contract or doesn’t sufficiently prepare them for testimony.