Experts urged to take control and stand up to solicitor “bullying”

Deadline: don’t be rushed, experts told

Experts witnesses must not be bullied by solicitors into meeting unrealistic report deadlines and should not have to “share the pain” when courts cap legal costs, it was claimed last week.

The Jackson reforms may have created tensions between solicitors and the expert witnesses they instruct, as solicitors come under pressure to meet tight timetables, but chartered building surveyor Rodd Appleyard told delegates at the Bond Solon expert witness conference: “When it comes to expert reports, experts are in charge.”

Solicitors, he said, will demand reports to be submitted in a single week and then sit on them for weeks before calling back with questions or requests for further information.

Mr Appleyard said he is straightforward with those who instruct him, telling them that once his terms and conditions have been accepted and subject to the availability of the client, he will get the report back to them in four weeks.

Being straightforward may cost you instructions, he said, but it is required to ensure quality, adding that he gets repeat business. “Don’t be scared of telling them [solicitors]. Don’t be bullied because they will bully you,” he told delegates.

When it came to costs, Mr Appleyard advised his colleagues to do as he does and include a clause in their terms and conditions that they will receive the agreed fee regardless of any determination of the court that caps costs.

One solicitor for whom he had prepared a report told him the judge had awarded only 65% of costs claimed and asked if he would like to share the “pain”. Mr Appleyard said: “It took me two nanoseconds to tell him I did not want to.”

Bill for what is fair, but if the solicitor has agreed your terms and conditions, they must pay you in full, he reminded his fellow experts.

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