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Working lives

Expert witnesses: Expert witness work can be a satisfying adjunct to a successful career. Fiona Nevile, development officer at the Society of Expert Witnesses, explains how her organisation's mentoring scheme can help civil engineers capitalise on their e

Many civil engineers are attracted to the idea of expanding their particular professional expertise by branching out into expert witness work, but not knowing where to begin, the idea remains a pipe dream. But the Society of Expert Witnesses believes many would bring a wealth of new knowledge into the expert witness arena.

Through its recently introduced mentor scheme the society is offering individual tailored guidance and advice to all aspiring expert witnesses who join as associate members.

Since the advent of the Civil Procedure Rules (for civil litigation) in April 1999, it has become clear that expert witness work is no longer an area one can just drift into. It is essential that prospective candidates have a clear understanding of the rules in practice, as they are being interpreted with little flexibility. Woe betide any expert witness who flouts them, whether through ignorance or design.

The society's mentor scheme is part of its determination to foster the spirit of self-help among its 1,100-strong membership.

The scheme is informal: individuals decide together the nature, type and extent of the support that is needed, thus meeting the particular needs of the novice as his expert witness work develops.

There are straightforward expert witness skills, such as formal report writing, that can be covered in a letter from the society's Helpline (0845 7023014) but nothing can beat the benefit of guidance and advice from an established expert witness.

The Society of Expert Witnesses is running a two day conference - Expert Witness: Masterclass 2000 - at Bristol's Swallow Royal Hotel, on 12-13 May.

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