Want to be an expert witness?

Here’s brutal honesty from CFEs who’ve spent decades as expert witnesses. Prerequisites: thick skin, penchant for over-preparedness and meticulousness, ability to think quickly, poise and a supply of heavy-duty deodorant.

Tiffany Couch, CFE, was nervous but prepared. As a young woman, barely over 30, she was ready to be an expert witness in a big case, but she had only been in business for a few years. The expert witness on the other side had 30 years of experience.

“I sat in my seat, hands folded in my lap, and was able to testify confidently and without hesitation,” Couch says. “I had done all the work or closely supervised and checked it all. The other side tried to say I wasn’t qualified as an expert, but the judge shot it down. The expert witness on the other side, with all his experience, was terrible. He hadn’t done any work himself. He had someone else do it. Every question he answered, he had to refer to a document in a file.

“I was on the stand a couple of days and stayed with the trial team the entirety of the nine-day trial. We won many of the points being litigated,” she says.

“I’ve come to realize that the most difficult times testifying rarely has anything to do with me,” says Couch, an ACFE Regent Emeritus. “It could be a lawyer not prepared. It could be a lawyer whose only option is to discredit you in any way because you have good points. It could be your client has bad facts. Being prepared and managing client expectations is crucial — no matter the outcome.”

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