Practice Development for Medical Expert Witnesses
Beryl Vaughan, Consultant
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or Call (415) 302-9589
Great Ideas, Ready to Go!
Free and easy tools you can use right now to add punch to your practice development plan and lighten day to day stress.
= Pro tips.
Retool Your Academic or Job CV
Tips to adapt your CV for attorney readers.
Email Signature Block
Your email signature block is easy to change.
Use these elements to maximize how attorneys view you, interact with you and call you.
Free marketing tools with a big punch and minimal time investment.
User's Guide to Posting Online
Forensic Experts can-and do-get work from posting online. That includes responding to the posts of others.
Learn how to do it right for exposure (to attorneys) while building your reputation.
Domain Names that Stick
A domain name may be your business email address, even if you don’t have a website.
It’s cheap to register and hard to pin down.
What you need to know and how to dodge the tricky bits.
Logo or No Logo
Is a logo relevant for solo practitioners? How about group practices? How do you decide on the right logo?
Why a Pied Paper above? Because it shows what happens when a logo is confusing.
Stressless Case Management Hacks
Here are a few trick to manage the expert witness’ calendar, files, pages of depos, deadlines and documents.
Software and E-Tools
Technology takes the heavy lifting off your brain. These tools help with the boring part of your job, like wading through electronic records.
CV: Adapt What You Have
Cannibalize an Academic or Job-Seeking CV
It’s common for doctors to tell me they have an old CV but nothing they’d send an attorney.
You need a new CV if
- Your CV is geared to academic or clinical work, but not medicolegal practice.
- Credentials, dates, recent jobs, skills, education, presentations and publications are missing.
- Your address, phone number, email, website and affiliations are wrong.
You need a CV for forensic work but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
How to rejig your academic or job-seeking CV:
1. Use letterhead. Make your phone number easy to find. Plus, letterhead is professional.
Begin the CV with Licensing, Board-Certifications and special Certifications.
Include your License and Board Certificate #s. If you’re licensed in more than one State, include them all.
The attorney owes a duty of due diligence to their client, including verifying you are a licensed physician. Make it easy for them to do so.
Also, there are legal and psychological benefits to reminding attorneys you are a doctor and you know your field.
Re-sort the CV Chronology: Most Recent and work backwards.
Tip for Newbies
- Hung up your shingle yesterday? Start with your highest and best credentials. Starting off the CV with those credentials remind the attorney: you’re a doctor, you’re Board-Certified.
Tip for Not Newbies
- Graduated more than 3 decades ago? Also start with licensure and Board Certification and be sure to include when you were first licensed and first Board-Certified so the attorney clearly understands how long you’ve acquired the skills that make you a valuable expert witness.
- Include faculty appointments.
- Organize presentations with bolded and italicized titles to demonstrate the depth and focus of your experience.
- Move education further down unless the school is wildly prestigious. If your CV is chronological, it may appear you just graduated when, in fact, school was a long time ago and not as important as the experience you’ve acquired since.
If you’ve published widely, the academic CV may well list every publication. I recently saw a 20 page CV of which 8 pages were publications. I argue it is adequate to highlight publications of relevance to attorneys, and to include those in recent decades.
Report the publications most relevant to medicolegal and subject matter expertise.
DON’T FORGET A DISCLAIMER: “This is not a complete list of publications, though one is available on request.”
Exception: Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 26(a)(2)(B)(iv) aka “the Rule 26 Disclosure.”
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 26, requires that an Expert Witness submit a list of all of their publications in the last 10 years. This only applies to Federal cases. Have the list, keep the list.
It just doesn’t have to be in your CV if it’s pushing much past 6 pages.
Always use professional letterhead for your Forensic CV.
Professional letterhead includes all of your contact information and a footer with the same information.
The footer is so the contact information can be tapped even if a page slipped out on its own.
FYI, when you become a Disclosed Expert Witness, your CV is sent to opposing counsel.
That’s Networking! Opposing counsel now has access to your contact information on your CV. This can produce cases because a lawyer on the “other side” who appreciates the quality of your work might want to retain you in the future. Make it easy for them to reach you.
Watermark your CV “Unretained Expert.”
This prevents attorneys from disclosing you as an expert witness without retaining you.
Once they’ve signed you retention contract and sent you the retainer, they get a copy without the watermark.
The “About” page on your website must be consistent with information reported on your CV.
Check it often. When you update your CV, update your website. You should compare the About page on the site with your current CV from time to time as a practical matter.
What’s online can be brought up in Court including your About page. Make it a mirror of your paper CV.
Your credentials can be found all over the place including through Board and Licensing bodies.
Facts on your CV should always be consistent with the public record. Verify your CV is accurate.
CV Cheat Sheet
Adapting your Academic CV
- Use business letterhead
- Start with Licensure and Board-Certification
- Medicolegal experience
Continue with your Academic CV:
- Academic experience including presentations to other students or residents
- Education (for newbies)
- Honors, Awards, Professional Societies
Email Signature Supercharged
Email: one and done
Gmail, Outlook, and most email services allow you to create a signature block.
It can serve as a calling card, contact card, even mini-CV.
I recommend creating a thoughtful signature block. The attorney will then need only one email from you to have all this at their fingertips.
- Make it easy to recognize you by name and credentials
- Acknowledge your med-legal know-how with a legal confidentiality notice.
GMAIL TIP: Use Shift-Enter to create a hard break between lines. Just “enter” can convert your signature to double-spaced which, if your email is printed out, produces extra useless pages.
- Sample Confidentiality Notice
Attorneys routinely use a confidentiality disclaimer at the bottom of their emails. In fact, so do Clinicians to ensure no one sends HIPAA-protected information in an email.
A confidentiality notice starts something like this:
The information transmitted by this email is intended only for the person or entity to which it is addressed…
Beryl’s Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and a confidentiality notice on an email has direct and implied legal impact. Talk to an attorney if you have concerns.
Include your most direct dial phone number:
- When an attorney reads your email, make it easy to pick up the phone.
- Your signature block might have a functional interface so your phone number is clickable on a mobile device; if so, be sure to apply it.
Logo or No Logo?
Where will you use a logo? Website? Business Cards? Online platforms?
1. A logo is a graphic that serves to identify your practice. Assuming we are discussing a logo for a forensic practice:
If you are solo, your practice= you. Skip a logo. Be sure to have a photo on your site, however. It serves a similar purpose: to associate your practice with a person.
If you are a group practice, a logo makes more sense than photos alone. You can’t have a business card with 10 faces on it. A logo, therefore, is a substitute for many services and many people.
Functionally, What is a logo?
1. Logos are used for “branding”–to build a visual bridge between your client and your practice. We know a logo is a graphic. But its function is to create an identity that is visual and immediate. NOTE: Healthcare logos for a forensic practice create confusion.
Logos do become dated. Every 5-10 years, consider an adaptation of your logo–but keep thematic cues: colors, shapes.
In recent years, Instagram, Slack, YouTube and Starbucks all updated their logos. The images were referential to earlier logos but designers changed the style and in some cases colors.
If you have a logo for your clinical practice
One simple line image can rarely address a nuanced multi-service practice. Keep a boundary, e.g., telemedicine treatment vs. uniquely forensic testimony. Again, it’s good to have thematic consistencies for both your practices.
A healthcare logo is confusing if your practice is more than treatment.
This logo immediately communicates medical-legal work.
It does not serve healthcare.
If you used it for a clinical practice, the gavel would confuse patients.
A logo is a statement about the practice AT A GLANCE.
This logo does not communicate medical-legal work or healthcare.
I find it dated. Do you?
What does this mean?
It is offered by one graphic service as a “healthcare logo.” I guess if we eat more green leafy veggies?
Here’s a twist that makes more sense:
A few changes give a different message.
The boxes suggest a group practice.
The magnifying glass is self-explanatory.
Why 3 “people?” What are they doing?
I do not understand.
Is it better to have a logo graphic, or a photo of myself?
Attorneys want to know what you look like. For that reason, a photo is always necessary in marketing. A graphic is not a substitute for a portrait.
You don’t have to be gorgeous, but it is human to want to connect with a face- visually.
A logo can be distracting and frustrating if the attorney seeks a face and finds a graphic that makes no sense.
Logos for group practices run this risk as well.
A frustration-response is the opposite of positive communication.
Google MyBusiness (sic)
GMB is the digital secret behind that BIG box you see on the right of your monitor when you’ve typed in someone’s (precise) name.
It contains photos, location, contact info and, most valuable of all, a place to post from time to time. Try it: type into Google “forensicexpertpro” and you’ll see what I mean.
Per the Social Media section on this page, join free LinkedIn and start building “connections.” Join LinkedIn “Groups”–especially those for attorneys. Post at least once a week and stay conservative. Learn about posting online. Consider posts that link articles from your website.
With the power of free data, you can improve your client’s experience in finding you.
- Google Analytics is a free account that tells you how users are finding your site and what pages interest them. The data is external: the journey to your site, not the behavior once there. Is your directory listing helping your website? What terms were used to find you?* Did they use a desktop or phone to do so? User info is anonymous–no personal information is acquired and you can reassure visitors to your website that there Privacy is intact. This isn’t Cambridge Analytica.
- To start, open a Google Analytics account (click above), add the indicated code to your site, verify it and you can now access all that delicious data.
- Web-Stat Premium is $9.50/month. Not free, but inexpensive. Web-Stat picks up where Google Analytics stops. Web-Stat follows the user’s journey inside your site. How long did they spend and on which page? Did they really read your About page? When did they go to the site? Where are they located? I love it because I can ask a client “did you get a call yesterday from North Carolina?” If the answer is yes, then I know it was from the North Carolina visitor that spent 7 minutes reading Article X (but not Article Y). Article X is now on my “effective” list.
Pick up the phone to call, or email, prior clients.
A call or email to an existing client reestablishes your relationship and puts you back on your client’s radar. It’s free and smart.
- Be brief.
- Be friendly. Use a first name if you’re on a first name basis.
- Reference the case. You might even reminisce a tiny bit.
- (Be sure your email signature block hit all the marks in your Supercharged E-Mail Signature.)
It’s definitely horse-and-buggy stuff and it works. Personal contact is always better than impersonal contact.
That’s marketing gold.
Posting, Reposting, Reacting
Post, Repost, Respond, React. NEVER ENDORSE.
Every time you post on LinkedIn, one of your potential attorney-clients might read it and cause them to take a second look at your profile and, by extension, website and email.
Post regularly for maximum effect–but stay in your lane and leave opinions out of it.
Posting on a regular basis once or twice a week is a great way to get the attention of your attorney contacts. LinkedIn’s algorithm favors those who post regularly. They “reward” people who use and engage with connections on LinkedIn.
Engagement, however, is a sticky wicket. Be prepared.
What is the best time of day to post?
10;15 or 10:45 am
12:15 or 12:45 pm
Why? Because these are times of day when people are bored or need a break to distract them from the daily grind.
Timesaver: Copy and paste the post in more than one group.
Schedule Post in Advance.
Write several posts at once and schedule them to be released later via autopilot.
The secret is Hootsuite, a free service that allows you to prepare your posts ahead of time, to be released on the schedule you set.
This means on Sunday you can develop 2 posts, schedule them for later in the week and be done.
Do I react with an emoji?
You can, thoughtfully.
Sadly, in January 2023 LinkedIn eliminated a “curious face” emoji that used to be a go-to for expert witness professionals.
We need a workaround because you can’t seem to endorse a post that you …can’t endorse, or you’ll lose a reputation for objectivity. Triggering a “notification” on the profile of a lawyer is valuable to establish your name among lawyers. Keep reading for some helpful “rules.”
Reactions and Comments Trigger an Alert to the person who posted.
The person who posted will see they have a reaction of comment on their post by a red dot along their tool bar. It’s like a popularity meter. This may lead to a person’s clicking on your profile and the information you provide.
What if a reaction looks like an endorsement? Can it come back to haunt me? YES.
A Thumbs Up or Insightful Lightbulb might work for a news article post from legitimate outlets (Reuters, AP).
Occasionally a general announcement of an award, new job or legal development, if there is no implication of bias on your part.
On the stand, you may be asked about your social media activity. Stay in your lane, and rest easy.
No politics > Stay away from statements with political overtones.
Because an endorsement is by its nature the expression of bias, stay generic.
Feel free to clap at a universal statement like “Maintain a work-life balance” or “Kindness is a business virtue.”
Leave this for your Facebook family. Emotional support is not your professional message.
I wuv you.
An expression of emotion has nothing to do with presenting a scientifically defensible finding of fact.
If the post is insightful because it is true, use the lightbulb. Interesting, is not the same thing.
If it’s not “ha ha funny” then don’t respond. FYI, very few attorneys post jokes.
To Logo or Not to Logo
Do you need a logo?
Solo Medicolegal Specialists
If you’re solo, my recommendation is no. Forget the logo.
Your photo is a better alternative on your website, LinkedIn, directory listings, etc. A photo establishes the kind of practice recognition that is usually associated with a logo. (Caveat: never use a photo on a business card or letterhead.)
If you have a clinical practice logo, consider a logo that is referential but distinct. Using my examples of the grid and leaf, they might be effective for a clinical practice (assuming you replace the leaf with something healthcare related) while the dark green and magnifying glass image speak to the medicolegal practice.
If you’re a group practice, photos are important on your website but you can have a bunch of faces serve as a logo.
In a group practice, your logo might get confused with the big medicolegal placement firms–which is not the service you provide.
Logo company offered this one. Why 3? What does it Mean? Are we Dancing? I'm so confused.
Touted as a "healthcare logo" by large logo company, I have to wonder if I need a greenhouse to be health.
I popped that logo into graphics software for a better medicolegal application.
Catchy and Memorable Domains
We all want a domain name that’s easy to remember, on-point and easy to type. Sadly those names are no longer available, and “catchy” may not even be a good choice.
Google’s SERP placement is tied to relevance: does the site address what the name implies? “Orthopedicexperwitness.com” might perform better than “backdoctor.com.”
The cost of a domain name.
Respected domain registrars charge $15.99-19.99 to register a domain name. You should also pop for a service for Domain Ownership Privacy which is about another $30/year. Without the privacy coverage, your name, address and email can be public on whois.com and ICANN. ICANN promotes internet transparency by making domain ownership information available . A domain privacy service, however, uses their own generic information in lieu of your personal information.
By contrast, professional domain-name resellers don’t want privacy. They want domain-seekers to find them and make them an offer. That is not you!
Should you buy from a domain name reseller?
The value of a good url was established in the early 1990s. Since then, Domain-Name Bulk Buyers / Resellers have been busy snatching up anything with a common proper noun.
Great 4-letter noun domain names go for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Md.com is gone. blackdogexpertwitness.com is available. You need something in between.
Medicolegal.com appears to be for sale. To find out the cost, you have to follow a series of links which may not be stable or safe. Using a familiar broker like GoDaddy could provide a layer of security. I have no experience with the domain name broker/reseller industry. The largest is Uniregistry.
When I started out, forensic medical-centric domains were evaporating before my eyes, so I began registering names whenever I found one. I knew my clients would eventually be out of good options. Occasionally, I will sell a domain name I registered, but only to current clients and only if it is practice-relevant.
I don’t have a website, why buy a domain name?
A professional email adress is [your name]@[your domain.com]. For that email, you have to own the domain name. Note that any email @gmail.com or @yahoo.com are hallmarks of the amateur.
When searching for an available domain, filter by the extension .com. It is the business standard and gets the best SEO for a business.
Unlike a .org, you are not a non-profit.
Note .net and .info also fall behind .com in Google results.
Don’t use your name as your url.
Some forensic professionals use their own name like Drjoesjameschmoemd.com.
I don’t recommend this. Attorneys looking for someone like you don’t yet know your name.
That won’t always be true. But our focus is providing new clients an open door to your practice. Repeat customers will appreciate a shorter domain alias that is easy to remember.
Purchase a second domain name that points to your primary website.
You can purchase a short, but not intuitive, domain that redirects folks to your longer, more relevant website. It gives your existing attorney clients something easy to use after they know what you do. Note, this is not a subdomain or addon domain.
Case in Point. My client, Dr. Adhia, has the domain www.forensicpsychiatrynow.com. To make it easier for his attorney clients, he registered his initials www.sgamd.com. When Dr. Adhia added another doctor to his practice, he registered www.aamedlegal.com. All take you to the same destination site, but some are easier than others to remember AFTER YOU ALREADY KNOW THE DOCTOR AND THE PRACTICE. Try it:
Primary url: www.forensicpsychiatrynow.com
Alternate https://www.aamedlegal.com > www.forensicpsychiatrynow.com
Alternate https://www.sgamd.com > www.forensicpsychiatrynow.com
Benefits of a Long Url:
- A long domain name that is referential to your expertise conveys that the site will be …relevant.
- There may be SEO positives to a domain name that includes relevant language. Full Disclosure: This is a controversial subject without a definitive answer.
- You don’t lose benefits from a long domain name by using a shorter addon domain.
Common SEO opinions shift almost daily and rely heavily on Google’s algorithm for placement of a site. Google’s algorithm is possibly the most closely held secret in the business world. In fact, it may be entirely AI driven, and humans might come to different conclusions.
You will find conflicting opinions about the “relevant long domain name” vs. the “not so relevant short domain name.”
This article reflects my experience but I am not deaf to the shifting tides.
It takes 1-2 years to get traction for your website on page 3 or even further from page 1 and that is after you start being indexed by Google. Indexing, by the way, is the word that means “Google is looking over billions of sites and will get to your site at some point” vs. the unindexed site which means “Google is looking over billions of sites but because you didn’t submit your site to be indexed will NEVER be found.” Yahoo.com, Bing.com and Firefox’ Duckduckgo.com are influenced by Google’s ranking results.
The sooner you commit to the url and begin this process, the sooner you will reap the benefits.
Changing mid-stream resets the clock. If you buy a domain, set up a website then later change your url and move the website, it is like starting over and losing your place in line for Google indexing. In fact, Google cares how long your url has been in play. The want to promote sites that have been around awhile.
More reading includes these articles that are not endorsed by me, but still interesting:
URL Domain Name Length: Data-Based Pros and Cons From Digital Marketing Guru Neil Patel
What does this logo mean? Why 3? Are we dancing? Huh?
You probably don’t need a logo if you’re solo.
Logos are common in clinical practice, because that’s not a person, per se, it’s a business. Doctors, NPs, different specialists might all be under one roof.
In medicolegal work, however, your practice is a person–you.
Solo? No Logo. For a solo practice, a logo could suggest you are not a single authoritative person. In fact, you are just that.
Skip the logo, spend your time and money on a good photo.
The photo is your name-recognition-token. (FYI, never use a photo on letterhead or a business card).
Group Practice. You might need a logo if your medical-legal practice reflects multiple people.
This is when you should consider minimalistic images and/or unexpected images.
There are big companies in the medicolegal space that are not specific medicolegal experts. They may be gateways to a database of people, or internet dumping grounds like HealthGrades. Logos are their “brand,” which is not the model for your practice.
If you’re running a group practice, give a lot of thought to your logo so you don’t confuse lawyers about who they are calling.
Conceptually and visually, Law and Medicine intersect nicely in this logo
I would make aesthetic changes but that’s just me. I do have a personal dislike for the overuse of a gavel as a default for “law” or a cross as a default for “medicine.” Still, it does the trick.
If you have a logo for your clinical practice, and want one for your forensic practice, then consider making them referential but not identical. Case in point:
A logomaker service advises this is a "healthcare logo." That's why logomaker sites are dangerous. They think you are a plant.
This logo makes more sense for a medicolegal practice.
It also demonstrates how a logo for one business might be referential but not identical to the logo for another business.
To create the second logo, I used Adobe Photoshop to change the original logo. I added new, more conservative, colors to the boxes and the magnifying glass and person. It took about an hour.
There are now 2 logos, one for the forensic practice and one for the healthcare practice.
Case Management Shortcuts
Finding Case and Contact Info in One Place: Low Tech
On the inside of your new case file, keep a list of important phone numbers, case citation, dates–anything you want easily at hand. I prefer making a label using a template; I can easily stick it on the client folder.
Include whatever is important to you. My recommendations:
- Client name and address
- Client phone
- Contact people at the firm including paralegals and legal secretaries
- Case citation
- Source of referral to you (invaluable)
- What you are charging
- Computer filepath for client and for documents.
- A filepath for the Index of medical records. E.g., John Doe’s St. Francis Hospital Records 2010 looks like this: D:\OneDrive\Forensic Consultancy Business\Test Location of John Doe’s Medical Records\Index of St. Francis Memorial Records
This is the template I use for physician expert witness clients. For your practice, you would likely want to include the case citation and jurisdiction, and the names and emails of your contacts at the law firm.
SOFTWARE AND E-TOOLS
Software to Manage Records
You probably receive records electronically.
Some attorneys kindly provide an index to the records.
If they don’t, it can be hard to traverse and cross-reference what’s important. Adobe Acrobat Pro and some software proprietary in the legal industry provide tools to navigate long files.
In the olden days, a doctor would receive hard copies, flag them, annotate them in the margins and other techniques to quickly get to what is important.
This is valuable information when you write a report or prep for testimony.
With electronic records, Adobe Acrobat Pro contains features to make comments, track your notes, and organize documents. I’m sure there is other similar software. Let me know what you use.*
Managing records with Acrobat Pro
Adobe’s subscription plan for Acrobat Pro is $19.99/month.** Disclosure: I do not receive recompense from Adobe and have zero investment in my recommendation. However, I have been using Adobe software for more than 20 years and their products are the gold standard for certain types of software. (Note: the free Adobe Reader does not have the valuable features in Acrobat Pro.)
6 favorite features
- Save your report as a .pdf and use Acrobat to password-protect it, so it cannot be altered by anyone.
- “Optimization” is the Acrobat OCR term that deskews/straightens those off-kilter .pdf records.
- Annotate records.
- highlight content electronically. No paper or highlighter required. Yellow and green are available.
- Bates Stamping***
- Watermarking (see Unretained Expert watermark in the CV section of this page.)
*Let me know about other software and why you like it. I’ll share it here.
** Adobe’s Creative Cloud Suite consists of 20+ programs for $54.99/month. On my last renewal date, I asked for a discount and they offered $24.99. Asking is always better. I’m happy to tell you more about the CC Software’s value for a med-legal Expert Witness. Drop me a line.
***Bates-stamping is a tool attorneys use to apply sequential numbers to each page in a given file, starting with the first page. Attorneys apply this to documentary evidence, and for internal document tracking. It does not organize documents but does provide a reference point.
Online calendar for deadlines and time management
Rushing at the last minute is standard operating procedure for many attorneys, sadly for you. Keep your own calendar. It’s practical and allows you to better manage your charges, and reduce sticker shock when you are on top of your own work.
The benefit of an online calendar is you can access it from anywhere, not just the office. If you use Chrome and Google Calendars, be sure your cellular devices are synced.
Dates of interest:
- Attorney deadline for report
- Expert Disclosure
- Discovery (depositions, document production)
- Settlement conference
Checking in with an attorney about an upcoming deadline opens the door to a substantive conversation and might even remind the attorney of something important.
Social Media is Easy. There’s Only One.
LinkedIn is the only Social Media Platform Suitable to a Conservative and Professional Practice. If you are thoughtful.
Skip Facebook (unless you already belong to business groups)
Medicolegal work is not acquired through Instagram, Twitter or TikTok.
Linkedin is called a B2B platform, which means Business-to-Business. Your medical practice is a business as is a legal practice thus you are B2B. Create or update your LinkedIn Profile, post a professional photo and a suitable descriptive profile. Use the search bar to find attorneys in your area and send them a connection request. Done. Free. Easy.
Keep reading though before you post or respond to a post.