During the initial direct examination process, a testifying expert witness must first qualify their expertise within court. For this to happen, the testifying expert must demonstrate competence within the subject, as well as qualification through a combination of subject knowledge, skill, training, and education (Sapir, 2007). To accomplish this, an attorney may ask various questions to help demonstrate to the court the competence and knowledge of the testifying expert. For example, an attorney may ask the expert to tell the court about details regarding where the individual received their education and what degree or degrees they hold. The expert may also be asked to give a length of time they have spent in the area of expertise. Additional questions may include current place of employment, present title, current position, licensing in the field, any publications within the field of expertise, any honors or awards received in the field of expertise, or number of times the witness has testified in court as an expert witness within the field (Sapir, 2007).
While an attorney who called the expert witness will be asking questions to help qualify the expert witness, the opposing counsel will likely ask questions to call into question the expertise of the witness in attempts to discredit the witness. This can be done through various methods to include attacking potential biases of the expert witness or to attack the expert’s qualifications (Evans, 2017). Exploiting possible presence of financial bias within the expert witness is a common technique in which the opposing counsel may call into question the presence of bias due to the witness providing their expert testimony for a fee (Evans, 2017). On the other hand, the opposing counsel may attack the witness’ credentials by identifying a list of relevant certifications within the field which the witness does not possess (Evans, 2017).
An expert who demonstrates contradictions within their testimony may appear incompetent within court which would call into question the evidence collected and produced by that expert. To avoid contradictions during a testimony in court, expert witnesses should prepare for their direct examination prior to court. It is recommended for an attorney to prepare the expert witness on a separate date prior to the testimony date. The preparation includes reviewing related facts, timeline, legal standards, familiarization with any prepared demonstrative evidence, and anything the expert intends to use when testifying (Harlan & Coulson, 2019).