Why a good letter of instruction is important
Expert Witness reports and testimony can have a huge impact on the outcome of a case, so making sure that you get the best report from your Expert is vital.
Solicitors may have a clear idea in their mind as to what they require, but sometimes this can be difficult to translate into a letter of instruction that a Psychologist can work to. It is also important to ensure that what you need can be provided by the Expert you are instructing, as sometimes instructions may be outside of the Expert’s realm of expertise or experience or even require a different type of professional altogether. An example of this would be when a solicitor requests a Cognitive assessment as well as an assessment of Fitness to Plead. Cognitive assessments are conducted by Psychologists, whereas Fitness to Plead almost always requires a Psychiatrist (see our article on Fitness to Plead assessments).
A clear letter of instruction also enables an Expert Witness to provide as accurate a fee estimate as possible at the outset. The nature and number of questions to be addressed, the amount of reading required, location(s) of the client(s) and funding constraints e.g. Legal Aid can all have an impact on the fees charged by an expert.
Finally, deadlines are crucial in many cases and so being clear with the Expert as to what is required by when helps to avoid unnecessary delays, frustration and cost.