Category: Consultants

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Will Divorce Impact the Nonprofit?

News media and tabloids have been focused on the high-profile divorce. We were interested in how divorce impacts a family foundation.

Last week, the tech and media worlds were abuzz with news of the Bill & Melinda Gates divorce. After 27 years of marriage, one of the richest couples in the world decided to call it quits. This was a shock to many outsiders looking in. Their long-term marriage, despite all the trappings of wealth and influence, seemed like it would stand the test of time. The New York Times, in this article, described the two parties as having “reshaped philanthropy and public health,” with the fortune acquired by the couple as a result of Mr. Gates being a co-founder, and past CEO, of Microsoft.

Certainly, when I think of philanthropy, I think of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A well-funded operation run by the couple, in a fight against global health crises. Last year, when COVID-19 invaded every aspect of our lives, Bill Gates was seen on TV and in articles providing guidance on dealing with the pandemic. Through his work at the foundation he had gained significant insight and had been warning of pandemic threats for many years. Bill played such an instrumental role in the process that many people now associate the foundation with public health.

On the home page of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the first thing a visitor sees is the following text: “We are a nonprofit fighting poverty, disease, and inequity around the world.” Much of their philanthropic work takes place in the form of grants. In 2019 alone, the Gates Foundation provided more than $2.7 billion in grants according to their own reporting. The foundation has made grants in the following areas: gender equality, global development, global health and more.

Now that the Gates’ are calling it quits, how will that impact the operations of this massive nonprofit?

Nonprofit attorney and consultant insights

Having little or no experience with nonprofits (more specifically a family foundation) myself, except for my annual contributions, I reached out to one of our consultants, Jess Birken, Esq. Ms. Birken is the owner of the Birken Law Office, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is a lawyer who helps nonprofits solve problems so they can focus on what really matters… their mission. Her practice specializes in nonprofit organizations. Before becoming a private practice attorney, Ms. Birken spent four years inside a national nonprofit organization, Pheasants Forever. In that role she managed about $50M in state and federal government grants and worked on hundreds of conservation real estate deals.

In essence, Ms. Birken had the expertise I was seeking. She could answer the questions I had about nonprofit operations in the face of familial separation. For purposes of attribution, I had developed some of my questions from this article by Vox. Ms. Birken used this New York Times article for some of the information about the organizations.

Below, you’ll find my questions and Ms. Birken’s answers:

Nick Rishwain: This matter involves a family foundation. How is a family foundation different from other types of nonprofits?

Jess Birken: Generally, a “family foundation” is completely or mostly funded by one family. The term family foundation isn’t a legal term though, it’s just a way to describe a private foundation with that characteristic. Private foundations in general are different from the nonprofits most people think about when they hear the term “nonprofit.” Most people hear nonprofit, and they are picturing a public charity (like your local church or pet rescue).

Both public charities and private foundations get tax-exempt status and are labeled as 501(c)(3) organizations by the IRS. Both types are established for a charitable purpose and have a mission. Both types can use the word “Foundation” in their title. It can all be a little confusing.  The major difference between a private foundation, like The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and a public charity, like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, is where they get their financial support. Public charities raise money from the general public, but a private foundation usually has one source of funding, typically an individual, family, or corporation.

Another key distinction is that private foundations also often differ in their activities. They typically don’t run programs directly – like, say, a soup kitchen serving people experiencing homelessness. Instead, private foundations often make grants to other organizations. A private foundation might make grants to many homeless shelters running many soup kitchens. Other differences between the two include the fact that the board of a private foundation is not required to be diverse (often the board is made up of only family members, etc.); that they are required to make charitable distributions throughout the tax year; and that they must pay a nominal excise tax on their net investment income.

Nick Rishwain: We know divorce can have impacts on businesses and real property, in respect to division of assets. Are nonprofits incorporated in a similar way which would cause a division?

Jess Birken: Generally, no single person owns a nonprofit. Nonprofits do not have shareholders or issue stock and private individuals can’t benefit from them. So, they aren’t an asset that can be split up in a divorce.

Nick Rishwain: In the Vox article, the foundation said, “that the philanthropy did not anticipate changes to its work.” What changes might a divorce cause to a nonprofit?

Jess Birken: Theoretically none. Even a family foundation has a board of directors. These directors have fiduciary duties to carry out the mission and take actions in the best interest of the nonprofit – regardless of any individual board members’ personal life situation.

In the case of a family foundation, however, where the primary funder is the family, then it could be the case that the donations to the foundation that are directly from the family will decrease temporarily (or long term) as the assets of the donor family are apportioned through a divorce proceeding. Whether this happens may be revealed through the upcoming IRS Form 990 filings that show revenue and contributions by donor as part of Schedule B in the years ahead. So, a temporary reduction in activity or some kind of holding pattern (versus expansion) could happen. In the case of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the foundation has net assets forming an endowment of about $50 billion. So, any flux in family contributions is likely to be a minor hiccup for this foundation.

Nick Rishwain: Are nonprofit organizations, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation usually funded year-to-year?

Jess Birken: For accounting purposes the nonprofit accounts for contributions it receives during its accounting year. How frequently donations are made by a family will depend on the family and their philanthropic vision and tax planning needs. I’m not an estate planning expert but it’s probably fair to say that in general donations to family foundations are likely to be calculated annually based on each year’s tax planning situation.

Nick Rishwain: In the above article, Vox indicates the Bill & Melinda Gates divorce might impact their nonprofit foundation. Could a private divorce impact the work or funding of such a large nonprofit organization?

Jess Birken: From the perspective that both parties to the divorce are on the board of directors, that’s certainly possible. As I mentioned before, the assets of the family will be getting a shakeup through the divorce. It’s possible that either Bill or Melinda – once they have completely separate households – will make their own contributions based on their own philanthropic interests.

In this instance, however, it seems their public commitment to the core foundation work is aligned and, in my opinion, probably true. The foundation itself has an endowment of $50 billion to work with – the divorce won’t affect that core fund. So, the interpersonal aspects are more important in this case. Warren Buffet was recently added to the board of directors as a Trustee and is also a contributor. This will likely have a stabilizing effect and may have even been planned for that reason – I’m speculating but it makes sense.

As far as interpersonal problems between the couple causing issues around pushing for one charitable interest over another, this has already been addressed. Each member of the couple already has a fully formed enterprise where they can pursue their individual agendas and those have been in place for some time. Bill Gates has Gates Ventures a company first formed after he stepped down from full time work at Microsoft in 2008. His enterprise focuses on clean energy, climate change, education, and health. Melinda French Gates formed her Pivotal Ventures company in 2015 which works on gender equality and social progress. So, each has an outlet for pursuing their individual goals which likely insulates the foundation’s work even more.


Well there you have it! My questions were answered. If you have more questions about nonprofits and charitable organizations, reach out to Jess Birken at here website: birkenlaw.com. For more information, you may also want to check out her podcast: charitytherapy.show.

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The Super Bowl Arrives as We Await the SCOTUS Decision on Sports Gambling in Christie v. NCAA

Super Bowl Sunday is upon us! In just five days, we’ll be sitting down with friends and family to watch the Eagles and Patriots duke it out to determine NFL supremacy in 2018. I’ll be filling up on smoked brisket, barbecue beans, and a variety of other chips and dips (likely including mass quantities of guacamole). Sunday is also a time of unrepentant gambling. A day of vice if you will. It’s great fun!

This year is no different from years past, except we in the legal community are expecting a ruling from the Supreme Court on the Christie v. NCAA, a case that could open the flood gates for legalized sports betting throughout the United States.

Let’s be honest, many citizens are already participating in sports gambling. Whether it be the office pool, fantasy football, prop bets during the game, or bets with your local bookmaker (not recommended), gambling is a massive part of this annual event.

The Las Vegas hotels and casinos are busy with enormous bets. A story from Boston.com last week highlighted some six and seven-figure bets being placed at the South Point sports book and The Mirage Hotel & Casino. One person placed a bet for $2 million, which is just a tad more than I’m willing to bet this year. Bookies expect total legal betting on the Super Bowl to break last years’ record $138.5 million.

So let’s take a look at how all of this began approximately 7 years ago.

PASPA and Christie v. NCAA:

Gambling is big business and other states want in – New Jersey included! In 1992, Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which prohibited state-sanctioned sports gambling with a few exceptions. According to this post from The Legal Intelligencer, “The act includes exceptions for state-sponsored gambling in Nevada and sports lotteries in Delaware and Oregon.” The act was enacted with the support of all four professional sports associations and the NCAA. The intent of the law was to preserve the integrity of athletic events.

Starting in 2011, then New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration took measures to challenge PASPA, leading to a multi-year court battle to have PASPA declared unconstitutional for violating the anti-commandeering doctrine of the 10th Amendment.  It should be noted that New Jersey has lost the case(s) every step of the way (trial and appeals), yet the Supreme Court granted certiorari and heard oral arguments in December of last year.

As laid out by The Legal Intelligencer, “New Jersey argues that, by requiring it to enact state laws to prohibit sports betting, PASPA is commandeering the state’s law enforcement system. The state claims that PASPA violates its sovereignty.”

SCOTUS Ruling Expected by June 2018:

As oral arguments have already been heard, we can expect the decision to be released no later than June of this year. What will happen? I’m no professional SCOTUS commentator, so I dare not hazard a guess at the potential outcome. However, Professor I. Nelson Rose of the Gambling and the Law Blog, predicts “a fairly large majority of the Supreme Court will rule that states cannot be told that they have to continue to make a product or service illegal.” Professor Rose is a law professor at Whittier and has served as an expert witness in civil and criminal trials on the topic of legalized gambling.

If Professor Nelson is correct, next years’ Super Bowl could be a whirlwind of new state-sanctioned sports gambling. Will this also open the doors for eSports and fantasy gambling sites like FanDuel and DraftKings? I guess we’ll have to wait to see how the Supreme Court rules.

How will you be spending Super Bowl Sunday?

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Google Antitrust Investigations: FTC, EU, state attorneys general… More to come?

The ABA Journal reported this week that Google was subpoenaed by the Missouri attorney general (Josh Hawley) for antitrust and consumer protection violations. Google has been placed on notice and the investigation is ongoing. Earlier this year, the Mississippi attorney general sued Google for similar violations and the European Union fined the company $2.7 billion for consumer protection violations. Are you seeing a pattern? Antitrust litigation against Google seems to be full speed ahead.

According to the article, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) completed an investigation against Google in 2013. The FTC concluded, “We have not found sufficient evidence that Google manipulates its search algorithms to unfairly disadvantage vertical websites that compete with Google-owned vertical properties.” Evidently, Mr. Hawley does not agree with the FTC finding so he decided to investigate on his own.

When investigating and prosecuting cases involving sophisticated technology and antitrust issues, attorneys depend on experts to perform complex investigations and unravel complex issues. Who will the attorneys general and defense counsel turn to in support of these involved matters? Let’s take a look at the issues:

Antitrust / Consumer Protection:

To understand more about the laws governing antitrust issues in the US please visit the FTC for a brief summary.

Essentially, United States antitrust law is a collection of federal and state laws regulating the conduct and organization of businesses, generally to promote fair competition for the benefit of consumers.  As the FTC page indicates, there are three main laws covering antitrust behavior: the Sherman Act 1890, the Clayton Act 1914 and the Federal Trade Commission Act 1914. For more than 100 years, “The antitrust laws have had the same basic objective: to protect the process of competition for the benefit of consumers, making sure there are strong incentives for businesses to operate efficiently, keep prices down, and keep quality up.” The laws also basically prevent collusion or cartel-like practices and monopolies.

The Missouri attorney general has said, “There is strong reason to believe that Google has not been acting with the best interest of Missourians in mind.” It appears the Mr. Hawley believes Google is doing things which are not promoting, and possibly impeding, fair competition. Further, their algorithms may be directing users to Google-owned properties rather than websites offering services which compete with those Google-owned properties. As Google is the 800 pound gorilla when it comes to Internet searching, any tactics directing users to their own goods or services could be considered a restraint of trade.

In order to prove Google manipulates algorithms for their own benefit, the Missouri attorney general is probably going to have to employ some expert consultants who may later testify as expert witnesses. Google’s defense counsel will probably have to do the same. I assume Google will have many of the pre-litigation consultants in-house.

During the investigation, Mr. Hawley will likely need to consult with antitrust and antitrust economics experts to determine if actions by Google are negatively impacting consumers or restraining trade. Furthermore, he may need to employ consultants to conduct market research to have statistical evidence of the impact on consumers.

Algorithms:

Most of us (is this too presumptive?) have some sort of rough idea about search algorithms and what they accomplish. We understand it to be a mathematical equation used to search data and deliver a result based on the search terms we utilized.

After reading my last paragraph, I have to say there are probably far more accurate and simplistic descriptions of an algorithm. I may not have properly described how they work. That’s because I’m not a computer scientist. Luckily, neither the prosecution nor defense will be calling Nick Rishwain as an expert witness in Missouri v. Google.

The legal representatives from both sides are going to need assistance in understanding search algorithms and how algorithms might be manipulated by Google. They are going to need to know this quite early in the case in order to request and deliver the proper documentation during the investigation and discovery stages should Missouri file a lawsuit.

Both sides will likely need the assistance of information and Internet technology consultants. More specifically, I can see the need for information science & architecture experts as well as search engine optimization experts.

As the ABA Journal article made abundantly clear: Google has faced many legal actions related to antitrust and it appears even more legal actions lie ahead. It should be noted that Google is not alone in this area. There appears to be increased chatter about antitrust actions against Amazon as well. If the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission avoid taking action, we may see more attorneys general choosing to investigate and possibly prosecute the corporate giants for dominating the market.

For more information, check out the Experts.com Antitrust Articles section.


Updated: 07/24/2019:

Well, as we noted when we last wrote about the Google antitrust matter, more was likely to come. Yesterday, we learned the Department of Justice (DOJ) has opened an antitrust investigation into some of the world’s largest tech companies, although they did not mention the companies by name.

According to Ars Technica, the DOJ’s Antitrust Division opened an investigation which would “consider the widespread concerns that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online.”

From this, we can only take a guess that they mean they’ll be investigating Google, Facebook, Amazon, and some others. Other pundits assume Apple will also be investigated. If the investigation is a broad as reports are indicating, we can assume others will find themselves in the cross hairs at some point in the future.

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Expert Witnesses Embrace Digital Media Platforms – Interview with Attorney Mitch Jackson

On October 14, 2015, Experts.com interviewed Expert Witness and 2013 California Lawyer of the Year, Mitch Jackson, on the benefits of Expert Witnesses embracing digital media to promote their services. To watch the interview, click the link below.

Mitch Jackson was admitted to the California Bar in 1986 and immediately opened up his own practice representing victims of personal injury and wrongful death. In 2009, Mr. Jackson was named Orange County “Trial Lawyer of the Year,” by the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association. In 2013, he received the California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year (CLAY) Award for litigation. According to California Lawyer Magazine, the CLAY Award recognizes attorneys who have changed the law, substantially influenced public policy or the profession, or achieved a remarkable victory for a client or for the public and have made a profound impact on the law. Mr. Jackson is also an expert witness in legal malpractice matters.

Mr. Jackson is an active social media influencer with a strong presence on Twitter, Facebook, Periscope, Blab, Instagram, among others. In addition to his legal practice, Mitch Jackson maintains several websites promoting: livestreaming, communication, Rotary service, and, most importantly, “Being Human.” To learn more about Mitch Jackson, his practice, and his social influence, visit the following sites:

http://jacksonandwilson.com/
http://streaminglawyer.com
http://human.social/

Experts.com was established to allow professionals a platform to showcase their areas of Expertise. Since 1994, we have been providing millions of users worldwide with access to specialized knowledge. We believe our members should have control over monetizing their specialized knowledge and expertise. In this day in age of high technology, there is no need for a broker or middle man to mark up fees or market your expertise. Put your best foot forward with Experts.com.

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Precision is Key to Patent Indefiniteness Challenge

Prior to June of 2014, the standard for patent review made it nearly impossible to invalidate a patent claim for “indefiniteness” or ambiguity. The  U.S. Supreme Court drastically changed that standard in Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc.

Nautilus brought the case before the Supreme Court based on the notion that “the patent system is best served when patent claims are precise, definite, and certain. Ambiguous and indefinite patents stifle competition and encourage unnecessary litigation.” The Supreme Court agreed saying that the ambiguity the lower court used to evaluate the patent would “leave courts and the patent bar at sea without a reliable compass.” In its unanimous decision, the Supreme Court asked the court of appeals to reevaluate whether Nautilus infringed on Biosig’s patent design based on stricter standards.

Although the Nautilus case involved a utility patent, it is suggested by Industrial Design expert, Robert John Anders, that this standard would most likely apply to design patent drawings as well. In a recent article, Mr. Anders posits that the use of break lines or brackets with “indeterminant” measurements could also lead to ambiguity, making design drawings vulnerable to patent infringement challenges.

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Read the full article here: Design Patent Drawing Conventions: Break Lines That May Be Fatal

Robert John Anders is a member of the Industrial Designers Society of America and the Human Factors and Ergonomic Society with more than 40 years of professional experience. Mr. Anders has been retained as an Industrial Design Expert for over 17 years.

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Sports Neurology Expert Witnesses and Concussions

Concussions have been front and center in the news for the last few years. According to the Mayo Clinic, a concussion is “a traumatic brain injury that alters the way the brain functions. Effects are usually temporary but can include headaches and problems with concentration, memory, balance and coordination. ” Technological advances in Sports Neurology have doctors concerned that such a broad definition does the public a great and very harmful disservice.

photo courtesy of premierelife.ca

Photo Courtesy of Premierelife.ca

In his article, “Plain Talk On Concussions,” Sports Neurologist, Dr. Vernon Williams, explains that the public’s understanding of concussions has been oversimplified for many years.  There are many factors to take into consideration when evaluating a patient. They can include previous brain injury, age, and even gender. Dr. Williams explains that,

“You can’t see a concussion on x-ray, CAT scan, or most MRI’s. But the lack of abnormality on those tests does not mean the brain hasn’t been injured. The injury occurs on a cellular level. When special methods are used, there is evidence of change in how the brain is working that last for days to weeks (evidence of persistent brain dysfunction) even when the injured athlete feels that they are back to 100% and the physical examination is normal.”

Players who engage in high contact sports like football  have a high risk for concussion. The problem has become so pervasive that parents and players have pressured the  NFL and the NCAA to tighten safety standards.  Innovations in helmet safety have come too late for many players. When NFL Hall of Famer, Mike Webster, was diagnosed with a progressive degenerative disease of the brain known as CTE, fellow retirees took note. Before his death, Webster suffered from amnesia, dementia, depression, and chronic pain, all symptoms of CTE.

Since then, approximately 5,000 retired players have filed suit against the NFL alleging the entity hid the dangers of concussions. Among the plaintiffs in these lawsuits are Art Monk, Tony Dorsett, Jim McMahon, Jamal Anderson, and Ray Easterling. Considering how high profile these cases have become, it is no wonder that brain injury has become a growing concern in Sports Medicine litigation.

Concussion litigation in the NFL, sports clubs, and even in school yards across the country have garnered so much attention that George Washington University’s law school has developed a course devoted solely to the legal implications of traumatic brain injuries.  Michael Kaplen, who teaches the course, is a plaintiffs’ lawyer who has worked on cases involving traumatic brain injuries for more than two decades. Kaplen believes the NFL became responsible for the safety of its players when it began studying the cause and effect of concussions over twenty years ago. (See article in The NewYorkTimes.com).

Public safety is the common thread for sports neurologists like Dr. Vernon Williams and litigators like Michael Kaplen.  With advances in medical technology, doctors have learned that the basic warning signs of a concussion which have prevailed for so many years are no longer sufficient. In light of this progress, making the NFL and other organizations accountable for the well-being of its players may be the catalyst to improved neurological health not only for athletes, but for everyone who has suffered traumatic brain injury.

______________________________________________________________________________

*Vernon B. Williams, MD specializes in Sports Concussions, Sports Neurology, and Pain Medicine. Dr. Williams is the Founding Director, Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles, CA. His clients include the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Kings, Los Angeles Sparks, among many others.  Dr. Williams’ Profiles on Experts.com.

 

 

 

 

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Press Release – The Benefits of Distribution

Press Releases are an excellent way to promote Expert Witness and Consulting Services. Aside from publishing press releases to a variety of print, broadcast, and online media, they can also be sent to current and prospective clients. The benefits of issuing a press release are many:

  • Perception Is Key – The idea that an Expert’s services are deserving of media coverage plants the seed that he is successful. In other words, if the New York Times  is taking space to publish a press release announcing an Expert’s or Consultant’s new book , then he must be worthy of consideration for an engagement. A press release, in essence, is mass confirmation of your achievements.
  • Third Party Endorsements – A press release issued on an Expert’s or a Consultant’s behalf by a third party is much more effective than one issued on their own behalf. Most Experts and Consultants are uncomfortable touting their own successes. By letting a third party advocate on their behalf, it takes the negative effect of self-promotion out of the equation.
  • Opportunity to Inform – A Press Release is issued mainly for a specific reason, whether for the publication of a new book, a business milestone, or a litigation success. It does not, however, have to be limited to that success. If written properly, press releases can include a short biography on the Expert or Consultant, communicating their areas of expertise and offering website links for more information on their services.
  • Maintain a Presence –  “Out of sight, out of mind.” It is important for professionals to let their current and prospective clients know that they are consistently relevant in their field of expertise. By issuing a press release, they keep their clients informed of their achievements and remain fresh in their minds for future jobs.

For more information on how Experts.com can help market your services and promote your achievements through a Press Release, please contact us at press@experts.com.

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Watermarking Your Curriculum Vitae

As disconcerting as it may be, unscrupulous activity does exist in the legal industry. As a leader in the Expert Witness and Consultant field, Experts.com believes in not only promoting our members’ services, but in protecting them as well. As such, we encourage our Experts and Consultants to Watermark their Curriculum Vitae.Watermark CV

Marking the CV with such statements as “UNOFFICIAL,”  “NOT YET RETAINED,”  “DO NOT SUBMIT,” or “UNAUTHORIZED,”  prevents unconscionable practitioners  from downloading  a CV and submitting it as their “Retained” expert witness, or implying such, without the knowledge and consent of the expert.  The watermark makes it clear to other parties what the status of the relationship is between the attorney and the expert.

The benefit of watermarking a CV is twofold. One, it allows an Expert to promote his services and qualifications and still feel secure that they will not be presented without his express consent and, two, it allows the Expert an opportunity to offer the most current version of his CV. Since the attorney must contact the Expert for an “Un-Watermarked” version, the Expert can then update the CV and bring to the attorney’s attention any new work experience or litigation successes.

For more information, or to become an Experts.com Expert Witness or Consultant, please contact us at support@experts.com.

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Insurance Expert Witness on Litigation and Selection of Experts

Andrew J. Barile, CPCU, CEO, of Andrew Barile Consulting Corporation, Inc., has over 40 years of experience in the Property Casualty Insurance and Reinsurance Industry. He is the co-founder of the first publicly held Bermuda reinsurer and is on the board of both domestic and offshore insurance companies. Mr. Barile has an MBA from Stern’s (NYU) business school, and has won the AngloAmerican Fellowship to study at Lloyd’s of London, with his thesis on the captive insurance company.

In a recent article, he writes,

“The versatile Insurance Industry Expert is being selected by insurance industry litigation law firms throughout the country. Since many cases involve millions of dollars of litigation exposure, it is important to have an experienced insurance industry expert who brings the element of persuasion and accuracy into the mix.

Insurance experts that have been retail insurance brokers, wholesale insurance brokers, excess and surplus lines insurance brokers, managing general agents, reinsurance intermediaries are very helpful in winning cases because they possess practical industry experience…”

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THE BUSINESS OF LAW

Attorneys can be so overwhelmed with the practice of law that they lack time for the practice of business. Between consultations, research, writing, court time, hour-logging, etc., there is little or no time to number-crunch for the highest profit. Many large firms have in-house accountants to mind the books but, even then, the traditional practice of law can hinder a firm’s profitability. The perfect example exists in the Expert Witness arena. The legal industry has a tendency toward the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This is all well and good if, indeed, “it ain’t broke,” but the Expert Witness industry has changed drastically over the last 15 years.

Prior to the computer age, when information was hard to come by, the best way to procure an Expert was through a Broker. Broker’s compiled lists of Expert Witnesses and Curriculum Vitae otherwise unknown to attorneys. The Brokers would then, and still do, charge attorneys a fee to retain those Experts. The cost is usually a 30%-60% mark-up over the Experts’ hourly rates. Though some Brokers offer a brief vetting of Experts, it is not worth the severe mark-up and attorneys are still required to do their own due diligence.

Expert Witnesses No BrokerToday, with information readily available on the internet, there is no need for a Broker’s services. Established and well-respected website Directories have made public and free what was once private and costly. The very same Expert Witnesses are marketing their services with these online Directories and negotiating their own terms with no middle-man. According to Expert Witnesses, the most common dissatisfaction with Broker referral services is their ineffective means of collecting from their law firm clients. With the Experts in control, getting paid is getting easier.

The Expert Witnesses have it figured out. Why attorneys would pay exorbitant amounts for what they could get free of charge is baffling. It’s time for law firms to focus on the bottom line, fix what’s broken, and save thousands of dollars annually. Nothing else makes good business sense.