Expert testimony requires a number of skills in addition to technical excellence. The ability to communicate information to a non-technical audience or different disciplines can be of vital importance. ARE’s principal spent many years in Toastmasters developing presentation skills. He is also a Past President and Past Educational Vice-President of Palliser Toastmasters.
Most disputes on which ARE has worked have been resolved without a government hearing or court trial.
The methodology used by ARE, which has been developed from past engagements, is as follows:
- Identifying key legal or regulatory issues in conjunction with legal counsel. The technical approach must be directed to resolving this point.
- Reviewing or studying the relevant technical issues which apply to the case.
- Assessing the results of the technical review or study with the client’s counsel when it is complete.
- Preparing reports and statements of expert witness that are readable to non-technical people.
- Using extensive references and support material. In the adversarial process most experts’ views are often viewed as biased to their clients. The use of outside material establishes that sound engineering has been applied.
- Highlighting differences in opinion since, in many cases, there can be industry-wide differences on important issues (otherwise the matter would most likely have been previously settled). In these cases, differences have to be highlighted, and an explanation provided as to how the disputed opinion was derived.
For instance, there is very limited data on bitumen relative permeabilities, some of which indicates temperature sensitivity and some of which does not. All of this data was presented to provide a complete background in a hearing. Importantly, the most applicable data did show temperature dependence. This point was emphasized rather than simply presenting limited data. There was therefore a level of uncertainty in the results.
Hearing or Courtroom Fees
ARE does not charge a premium for hearing or courtroom time. There is no doubt that the adversarial process can be stressful. However, questions posed by counsel and/or government staff are no different and no more difficult than questions that well-informed technical clients would make. Prior preparation is the key. Some experience with cross-examination is beneficial, as well as an interest in legal and regulatory issues in the oil and gas industry.