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Finding An Expert Entomologist: Top 7 Factors

Since 2010, Blackwater Consulting has been dedicated to helping its clients navigate the legal world of termites, insects, and other wood destroying organisms.

Finding An Expert Entomologist: Top 7 Factors

Finding An Expert

Finding an expert entomologist to assist in litigation can be a challenging and daunting task for an attorney.
For starters, there are few qualified entomologists available who understand complex biological systems in this unique field of study. Even though there may be individuals who have an understanding in one aspect of the discipline, it can be difficult to find a true expert who has a multi-dimensional curriculum vita. You will need to find an individual who can communicate educated and scientific opinions in a reasonable way to those with little or no knowledge of the topic.

As an attorney, what should you consider? I offer these seven factors when making your decision

Educational Background. Entomology is a narrow field of study. There are few individuals who have obtained a college degree in Entomology. It is possible to find those who possess a terminal degree and would be classified as “academics” or “researchers.” The problem, however, is many of these individuals have a single dimension to opinions and may not be endowed with the other qualities listed in this article. The optimal entomologist is someone with a degree in entomology. However, you’ll want to find someone who has used their education for more practical purposes throughout their career.
Industry employment. Entomology has a wide range of application. This discipline is essential in industries such as agriculture, vector control, ornamentals, forestry, medio-criminal, and wood-destroying organisms. With such a diverse list of industries, it is important for an entomologist to have experience in the industry relevant to the case. This includes having a background as a technician, or as someone who has spent time solving problems at the ground level of an industry. Having on-the-job experience allows experts to develop reasonable and relatable opinions for the arbitrator or jury. Sustained employment in the relevant industry also shows achievement with issues important to a specific field of study.
Regulatory experience. In addition to the standards of care, almost every industry today is regulated by governmental oversight. It is important for the expert entomologist to have a clear understanding and effectively communicate the current regulatory requirements. It is also helpful if the expert can explain the history and evolution of regulatory standards. Ideally, an expert with a background in regulatory enforcement provides a unique prospective to the law and effective utilization of industry methods. This could include quality assurance inspectors and regulatory officials. Either background has a practical perspective of the interface between industry regulations and the application of common trade practices.
Personal integrity. As with any testifying witness, character counts. Obtaining this information may be as simple as talking with colleagues about the potential expert entomologist or searching their name using the internet. You may also want to make an inquiry in the expert’s industry as to their reputation or, depending on the case, pay for a full background check. The depth of the inquiry will ultimately depend on factors such as the seriousness of the case and comfort level of the retaining attorney. This decision for assessing the integrity of the entomologist is a more subjective aspect of case preparation, but is extremely important.
Case background. Because entomology is such a diverse field of study, it is important to match the right entomologist to the appropriate case. A detailed review of the expert’s case history is helpful with this task. For example, an entomologist who has testified in cases involving agricultural or forestry pest is not a good match for a case involving wood-destroying organisms. Although there is a bit of crossover in the principles of general entomology, the lack of specific study in which the case is centered could be a significant stumbling block for a one-dimensional expert. Remember, traversing multiple disciplines within the field of entomology can be difficult for an expert.
Personality. In such a science-rich field of study, an entomologist can easily get lost in the disciplines’ details. It is not only important to possess the knowledge of entomology – but this person must also be able to communicate complex biological systems to the average person who knows little about the subject. In such cases, the messenger is just as important as the message. Take the time to evaluate the likeability of the entomologist. Agreeableness, sociableness, and approachability are just a few traits to consider. This requires a more subjective approach to selecting an expert which can, ultimately, be the tipping point in any case.
Objectivity. Another important trait is to judge the entomologist’s ability to be the information source for the case and not act as an advocate during testimony. Many experts “fall into the trap” of trying to win the case for the side of which the expert was retained. When this occurs, the arbitrator (or jury) may lose trust and confidence in the entomologist to formulate independent expert opinions. A practiced attorney can expose this point and, ultimately, negate the entomologist’s testimony.
Final thoughts. It can’t be stressed enough, finding a qualified entomologist can be a daunting task. However, it is important to take the time to vet the potential entomologist. Above are general guidelines and several points to consider when assessing an expert. It is important for any attorney to conduct their own thorough research on this topic and consider other factors that may not be included in this article.
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