Reviews of websites offering to identify expert witnesses of different specialisms

Those of you who are involved in litigation will know the value of a good expert witness, but not always where to find them. Luckily, the internet has a good selection of websites listing expert witnesses across a number of fields – and all for free. In reviewing the principal sites, I decided to look for three types of experts: a cardiologist, a firearms expert and a forensic accountant. So, how did the websites fare?

Expert Witness

This is the Scottish arm of the suite of websites, which can also help you find experts in England & Wales, Ireland and Australia.

The site has a crisp, clean design and a simple yet effective search function, which yields results featuring contact details, a summary of experience and downloadable CVs – a great idea. It certainly looks the most professional of the expert witness sites.

My searches here yielded one consultant vascular surgeon based in Edinburgh, one firearms consultant (albeit in Yorkshire), and six forensic accountants across Scotland. So, overall, despite looking the part and having the most detail about their experts, the volume of experts was less than you might have hoped.

The Law Society of Scotland Directory of Expert Witnesses

So advanced is the Directory that it is already (in mid-November 2007) on its 2008 version! Its main selling point is that it includes only “checked” witnesses. This means that all the expert witnesses in the directory have at least two professional references from solicitors or advocates who have instructed them within the last three years.

As one might expect with a directory from the Society, it has a lot of legal information, including a Code of Practice for Expert Witnesses instructed by solicitors and guidance on the role of an expert. These would be of great use to expert witnesses who are new to giving evidence in court or tribunal proceedings (and to some who are not).

Although my keyword search for “cardiology” produced nothing, the structured search (which is actually very, very structured and very useful as a result) did produce one suitable candidate, and maybe two. It also directed me to six firearms experts (two north of the border) and no fewer than 15 Scottish accountants offering their services as experts.

When you take into account the quality control, excellent structured search function and additional site features and information, this was the best of the expert witness websites (but only by a small margin).

The website enjoins the visitor to buy the Expert Witness Directory in hard copy (or a “book” as we used to say), but unless your office lacks a computer with an internet connection, I can’t see why you would bother.

Expert Search

Still proudly proclaiming the year to be 2007, this is a UK-wide expert witness website, which has a home-made feel to it. It seems to return rather fewer experts north of the border than elsewhere, but the search function is very good (second only to the Society’s directory) and many of the experts listed did not appear elsewhere.

As far as my mystery shopping went, and restricting myself to experts based in Scotland, I managed to find one cardiologist and three accountants but no firearms consultants at all.

Society of Expert Witnesses Database

Again, this website looks like it was thrown together in an afternoon. The database is less functional than those to be found in the other sites. In fact, it’s a bit of an exaggeration to call it a database at all. It is no more than a (long) list of categories of expert witness on a single page, with each category linking to a page of experts in that category, whose contact details are then simply listed.

While there are plenty of entries under the three categories I had earlier selected, there were none in Scotland and no facility for searching purely for Scottish experts. Nonetheless, it may be worth a shot if the other sites are drawing a blank.

While this might be the first website you stumble across if you were just trying to guess a URL, it is very far from being the most useful. It is largely an American (and Canadian) site, and while it does profess to list some UK experts, these seem mostly to be confined to London-based experts in various financial topics (of which there were plenty). So, for example, I was unable to locate any UK-based firearms experts or cardiologists using this resource. The fact that in looking for an accountant I was also offered an aquatic biology consultant casts some doubt on the efficacy of the search function.

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