Turney Berry Joins ACTEC Podcast to Discuss Expert Witnesses

Turney Berry, the leader of Wyatt’s Estate Planning service team, joined ACTEC’s “Trust & Estate Talk” podcast to discuss serving as an expert witness. Below is the transcript from the podcast and you can listen to the full episode here.

Margaret G. Lodise: So, I think we were going to next turn to Turney because Turney had some advice in terms of somebody considering being an expert. Which, I think, many of us at ACTEC would qualify as experts, but whether or not you want to be one is another question.

Turney Berry: Yeah, it’s interesting. We had some survey results, Meg, in our talk in New Orleans, and a lot of the ACTEC Fellows have served as experts, which I think is interesting and encouraging. I do think it’s a line of work that reasonable people can decide they like it, and reasonable people can decide they don’t like it.

One aspect, of course, is that you really do need a fairly thick skin because people are going to pick at your qualifications, they’re going to pick at your opinions, they’re going to argue about how you worded things, they’re going to argue about whether you, essentially, really know what you’re talking about and about what it means.

Sometimes that is the lawyers that you’re working with who have their own very definite opinions about how you want to describe something, how you should say something, and what language they want you to use. Not necessarily what conclusion they want you to draw but how they want you to say it. And so, if you’re not accustomed to that, if you don’t like that, you may not enjoy the process.

And then, of course, there are the nice people on the other side who want to tell you that when you said the sun rises in the east, what you really meant was that, in this particular case, the sun, in fact, rose in the west, despite what you think you said. And so, some people just don’t react to that very well.

The other thing that I think is important is just to think about yourself. Do you enjoy being around trial lawyers and litigators? Most of the time, we are spending time with transactional lawyers, other tax lawyers, other estate planners, fiduciaries, and our clients, who are, for the most part, drawn from a particular segment of society. It’s a broad segment, not everybody’s alike, but they’re in a group. Trial lawyers are a different beast, nothing better or worse, but they’re just different.

How much time do you want to spend around litigators whose primary, if not only, concern at the moment when they’re dealing with you is their case? And they want your attention, right then, about their case, which is the most important thing in the world. And how does that relate to the rest of your practice?

And I don’t think that you should conclude that just because other people you know enjoy being an expert witness that you would enjoy being an expert witness. You just need to try it out and make that decision for yourself. And if you enjoy it, then you’ll be good at it, and you’ll do more of it. And if you don’t, there’s no crime in that. Go back and keep doing the other work that you do enjoy.