Sample Engagement Letter for Expert Witness Services
By Aaron Larson
The following document is intended to serve as a sample engagement letter for expert witnesses who wish to utilize this alternative to a more standard contract. Please note that this letter contains provisions which may not be suitable for all experts. Also, it is the responsibility of any person who utilizes this document to verify that the provisions are consistent with the laws of the jurisdiction(s) in which services will be rendered.
Please also note that experts have considerable flexibility in the setting of fees. Some experts work on a straight hourly basis, while others prefer to charge by the day or half-day for services such as depositions or appearances at trial. Some experts, those in very high demand, actually bill 24 hours per day for times when they are required to travel. Most experts cannot get away with that type of billing, but may charge a per diem fee for time spent at a remote location. Some experts increase their hourly rate for time spent giving actual testimony, whether at deposition or at trial, while others maintain a consistent hourly rate for all services rendered.
Similarly, there is great variation in how experts treat expenses. Many experts find that with present long distance rates, it makes little sense to track and bill for long distance services. Similarly, experts who are able to communicate with their clients mostly through email and exchange of electronic documents may not find it worthwhile to bill for individual photocopies. For those experts, the overhead associated with photocopies and long distance may be subsumed by their hourly fee. However, where significant quantities of paper copies will be required, or where international long distance rates may apply, it may make sense to bill separately for those expenses.
1020 Arbitration Avenue
Ivory Tower, Massachusetts, 02474
February 30, 2003
665 Litigation Avenue
Great Falls, Virginia, 23237
Dear Ms. Lawyer,
This letter confirms that you have retained me to represent you in connection with the following matter:
Hatfield v McCoy, Case No. PH-004432-DO, pending before the Circuit Court for the County of Hazzard, State of Arkansas.
Pursuant to our agreement, I will provide services to you as an independent professional. Payment to me for the services I provide is not dependent upon my findings, nor on the outcome of any legal action, mediation, arbitration, or the amount or terms of any settlement of the underlying legal cause, nor on any contractual arrangement between you and any other person or party.
My minimum non-refundable engagement fee for services is Two Thousand dollars ($2,000.00), which shall be due at the time you sign this letter and return it to me. Billings for services performed or expenses incurred shall be charged against the engagement fee until such time as it is exhausted. You may not identify me as either a testifying or non-testifying expert until such time as the engagement fee has been paid.
You agree to compensate me for services rendered as follows:
Fees for my services: Except as outlined herein, I shall be paid by you at the rate of $140.00 per hour for all tasks performed under this agreement, including but not limited to analysis, calculations, conclusions, preparation of reports, and necessary travel time. Fees will be billed by the tenth of an hour, with a minimum charge for any discrete task of two tenths of an hour. For testimony at deposition or trial, I shall be paid at the rate of $200.00 per hour, to be billed in hourly increments. This rate for testimony shall apply both while I am waiting to give testimony, whether at an office or court, and for time taken for breaks or meals, as well as for time spent actually giving testimony.
Investigator Fees: At times, I may require the assistance of my investigator, Samuel Sleuth. You will reimburse me at the rate of $100.00 per hour for services performed by Samuel Sleuth, with fees to be billed by the tenth of an hour.
Graphic Design and Exhibit Preparation: You also agree to reimburse me for time spent preparing graphics or exhibits at the rate of $100.00 per hour, regardless of who performs the associated services. In the event that I outsource the preparation of graphics or exhibits, you shall reimburse me for the actual cost of the outsourced services, plus a five percent (5%) handling fee; however, the fee for outsourced services shall not exceed the rate of $100.00 per hour without your approval. The fees outlined in this paragraph do not include the cost of materials.
You agree to reimburse me for expenses as follows:
Travel by Car: 38 cents per mile;
Travel by Air or Train: The actual cost of the round-trip ticket, plus a ten percent (10%) handling fee.
Expenses associated with photography, reproduction of documents and photographs, preparation of exhibits, storage of materials or evidence, and other reasonable expenditures shall be reimbursed at market rates.
Lodging: For any travel of more than eighty (80) miles from my office, I shall be reimbursed for the cost of meals and lodging, plus a ten percent (10%) handling fee.
Car Rental: In the event of travel beyond the local area, I shall be reimbursed for the cost of a mid-sized rental car and any associated expenses, plus a ten percent (10%) handling fee.
Unless you otherwise instruct, or unless refundable tickets are not available, I will purchase refundable tickets for any necessary travel. Should you request that I purchase non-refundable tickets in order to travel at a lower cost, or if refundable tickets are not available, you shall reimburse me for the cost of any non-refundable ticket at the rate outlined herein whether or not the ticket is used.
You may avoid the ten percent handling fee associated with certain travel expenses by arranging to directly purchase round-trip travel tickets on my behalf, and by arranging for the direct payment of any car rental expense, lodging, and meal expenses by your office.
You have had the opportunity to investigate and verify my credentials, and you agree that I am qualified to perform the services described in this contract.
You are responsible for all payments as outlined in this contract, regardless of any arrangement you may have with any party or parties you represent. I will issue bills on a monthly basis, or whatever other interval I deem appropriate. Bills are due on receipt, and shall be considered delinquent if unpaid more than thirty days after their date of issuance. Interest shall accrue to any delinquent balance at the maximum rate permitted by law, not to exceed 1.5 per cent per month. In the event that a bill remains unpaid for sixty or more days after the date of issuance, I shall have the unrestricted right to to resign from performing additional services for the you and your firm on any and all cases that I am working on for your firm.
This agreement shall be interpreted under the laws of the State of _____________. Any litigation under this agreement shall be resolved in the trial courts of ____________ County, State of ____________.
Your signature below represents your agreement with the terms set forth herein. Please return a signed copy of this letter to my office, along with the required engagement fee.
I accept the terms of this agreement:
About the Author: Aaron Larson is a Michigan lawyer, practicing primarily in the areas of civil litigation and appeals.
Copyright © 2003-2011 Aaron Larson. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you believe you may lawfully use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article under the Fair Use exception to copyright law, except as otherwise authorized by the author of the article, you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.