The surging competition among PhD holders is leading to a massive concentration of bargaining power in universities.
The Census reports there are 4.5 million people with doctorates in the U.S. Yet, there are only there are only about 4,300 universities in the U.S. This gap is only widening. The number of people with doctorates has more than doubled since 2000.
This huge difference in bargaining power has also led to the “adjunctification” of academia. People who have sacrificed time, money, and prime career building years to get a doctorate are sometimes working for less than minimum wage in various adjunct positions. What’s worse, accepting an adjunct position can often tarnish a C.V. and reduce the odds of a tenure track position in the future.
This means the path to a PhD and beyond is filled with potential but also uncertainty. Whether you graduated decades ago or are still in school, lots of the anxieties are the same.
A big source of this uncertainty is the relentless focus academia has on keeping people within the university ecosystem. This just means academics producing more academics.
However, you’ve probably realized that securing sustainable and rewarding employment as a pure academic is often harder than earning your degree.
Once you hear someone call you that magic word (“Dr.!”) for the first time, the real struggle begins.
While getting my Doctor of Law degree I dreamed of being a law professor. Contributing original scholarship to the law and teaching law students the field that I love seemed wonderful. But then reality set in. I asked myself questions like:
“Who will hire me?”
“Do I have to leave my home and live across the country?”
“How long can I really keep this appointment?”
“Is there really a tangible opportunity for tenure?”
“Will I be able to earn enough to support a family?”
“Now that I’m tenured, is this really all there is?”
“Now that I know it’s unlikely I’ll ever become tenured, am I just staying in academia because I don’t know what else to do?”
Similar thoughts are all too common. The academia pipeline suffers from extreme tunnel vision. With everyone in bitter competition for an ever-shrinking pie of opportunity, these concerns are entirely justifiable.
So I gave myself permission to go into private practice where I wouldn’t have to be so anxious about my future. However, I still love teaching. That is why I am so grateful to be able to teach in the Accelerator.
However, there is a lot more opportunity for someone with a PhD than what many are led to believe.
Typically, the more concentrated value you can provide to a small number of people, the more likely you are to achieve the fair pay you deserve.
That’s why I think serving as an expert witness in the judicial system is one of the most rewarding opportunities out there. In fact, a federal government study showed there was a record 102.4 million cases filed in state courts in 2006. This exploding quantity and variety of cases has led to a surge in demand for expert witnesses.
OK – but why should you care what I think?
Hi, my name is Alex Stern. After earning a 4.0 GPA at a top 30 undergrad, I graduated among the top of my class from UC Berkeley School of Law. UC Berkeley is consistently ranked in the top 10 best law schools in the country
While earning my Doctor of Law degree at Berkeley, I received High Honors in Evidence. Evidence is the subset of law that governs witnesses, including expert witnesses.
I founded this company, Attorney IO, to democratize legal technology and contribute to a fairer legal system. (Although we have “Attorney” in our name because we serve attorneys, this company is not an attorney or law firm and we cannot provide legal advice.)
I’ve have been featured in The Washington Post, Forbes, USA Today, Business Insider, The Los Angeles Times, Vox, Law360, MSN, Slate, Law .com, the American Bar Association, and many more publications.
Legal consulting helps real people, shapes society toward justice, and empowers experts to earn what they deserve.
While working as a litigator (including most recently on a case involving hundreds of millions of dollars), I saw the enormous value that people with advanced education and expertise provide to our judicial system. I also saw how fairly these experts were paid for this value.
Too many universities devalue faculty and see them as interchangeable or expendable. They know that as soon as they post a faculty job opening they’ll be flooded with strong applicants. This is a very different mindset from an attorney who sees someone with a PhD and relevant expertise as the key to adding tons of value to a case.
A court case typically involves four main types of people: lawyers, judges, juries, and witnesses.
A witness can either be a “fact” (or “eye”) witness, or an “expert” witness. A fact witness is someone who personally observed something of relevance to a court case. An expert witness is a person who uses their expertise to educate and persuade attorneys, judges, and juries.
University instructors (especially but not exclusively adjuncts) are often undervalued by universities and sometimes even students. The value of a good instructor is often hard to quantify or measure. Even when students and institutions know they get a significant benefit from their instructors, usually they fail to properly attribute specific value to a particular instructor.
While students (and academic institutions!) often have their favorite instructors, most instructors too often disappear into the background.
The opposite is true of expert witnesses.
Expert witnesses can single-handedly make the difference between a person winning or losing a lawsuit or criminal trial. Expert witnesses can directly add hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to settlements and verdicts.
These big rewards typically go to a small number of people, including the parties who won the case and their lawyers. This enormous concentrated benefit to particular parties has led to a thriving market where expert witnesses are in serious demand.
It’s common for a plaintiff’s attorney to charge an entire 1/3 of the value of a case. Lawyers in the biggest cases like class actions (which can get up to hundreds of millions or more) often make as much as 25% of the settlement or judgment. Yes, top lawyers can really make tens of millions of dollars from a single lawsuit.
How much do you think these lawyers are willing to pay their experts when the experts are so crucial to them getting these staggering sums? These expert witnesses can literally be the difference between winning (and getting their substantial fees) and losing (and getting $0)!
Experts do more than just help to convince juries that a person or organization is responsible or not responsible for something. They can also encourage voluntary settlements, increase the value of such settlements, and increase the value of jury verdicts. If an expert spends 100 hours on a case and adds a million dollars in value, that expert created $10,000 in value per hour.
It’s well worth paying an expert a fair hourly fee that takes into account the massive value they can provide.
An expert’s value is handed directly to a small and concentrated number of people instead of a broader academic community. The more concentrated the value offered to particular people, the more likely you can achieve pay fairness.
It is critically important to society at large that people continue to invest their lives into academia. However, providing highly diffuse benefits to society at large (or the “academic community”) is a recipe for being undervalued.
It’s hard to ask for fair pay from the nebulous “society at large” or the various stakeholders of a university. It can be a lot more effective to work with a small number of sophisticated groups (such as law firms) that know full well how valuable your work can be.
Further, expert work can be flexible. That means an expert can often balance a teaching and research load in addition to serving as an expert. This combines the fulfillment of academia with the pay increase of expert work.
In fact, the very research and production of original scholarship that increases your standing in the academic community can make you a more attractive expert witness too. If you focus your next piece of scholarship on a judicially relevant topic, you can essentially get paid by your university for work that also bolsters your expert career.
However, being an expert is about much more than finally getting paid fairly for the many years you’ve invested in your education and field.
Much of what we call “the law” is crafted by the judicial system. Many of the overreaches and injustices of the government are corrected in the courts.
For example, expert witnesses were instrumental in persuading courts to overturn bans on marriage equality. Experts showed how illegitimate such a ban was. They also showed how psychologically damaging it was to its targets.
In Brown v. Board of Education, our country was literally transformed by experts. Through scientific and sociological evidence demonstrating harm to persons of color, the courts had no choice but to do the right thing and ban segregation.
When reproductive rights were again attacked in the Supreme Court in the 1990s, experts deftly parried those attacks and made women’s rights stronger. In the Supreme Court case called Planned Parenthood v. Casey, “the Court inquire[d], based on expert testimony, empirical studies, and common sense” whether the Constitution secured a right to reproductive choice.
In a 2003 case called Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court confirmed that race could be used as a factor in higher education admissions. The Supreme Court noted, “In addition to the expert studies and reports entered into evidence at trial, numerous studies show that student body diversity promotes learning outcomes, and better prepares students for an increasingly diverse workforce and society, and better prepares them as professionals.”
What better audience could a teacher hope for than the Justices of the Supreme Court?
These examples and the sheer volume of cases filed demonstrate the need for a wide variety of experts.
The rule that covers expert witnesses in federal court is accompanied by notes from a federal advisory committee. Those notes say: “There is no more certain test for determining when experts may be used than the common sense inquiry whether the untrained layman would be qualified to determine intelligently and to the best possible degree the particular issue without enlightenment from those having a specialized understanding of the subject involved in the dispute… When opinions are excluded, it is because they are unhelpful and therefore superfluous and a waste of time.”
These notes also say, “The rule is broadly phrased. The fields of knowledge which may be drawn upon are not limited merely to the ‘scientific’ and ‘technical’ but extend to all ‘specialized’ knowledge… Thus within the scope of the rule are not only experts in the strictest sense of the word, e.g., physicians, physicists, and architects, but also the large group sometimes called ‘skilled’ witnesses, such as bankers or landowners testifying to land values.”
Expert witnesses from an array of different backgrounds have done enormous good in our society. However, the fight for fairness and justice is nowhere close to ending. Anyone who’s watched the news or opened a newspaper just once in the past few years can see that.
Publishing research or lecturing students can slowly plant the seeds of change. Actually taking these insights to the judges who shape our laws can make immediate and powerful differences in the lives of the least advantaged.
A court case might involve a judge, a few parties, a few lawyers, some witnesses (fact and expert), and the jury. That’s not too many people. Yet, one federal judge can issue a national injunction that affects the nation. Contrastingly, there are 435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 Senators. An effective expert can literally make more of an impact on a national policy than a U.S. Senator.
Whether a case will change the nation for decades to come, or just mean the difference between one person getting justice or not, expert witnesses provide huge value in furtherance of important causes.
Expert witnesses with graduate education will largely come from either STEM fields or the social sciences.
For example, STEM disciplines often give expert opinions as to whether a patent should be invalidated (or sustained) based on whether the invention would be “non-obvious” to a person skilled in the field relevant to the patent. Patent litigation routinely involves many millions of dollars.
A gender studies expert might show how a manager’s sexist joking naturally created a hostile work environment. A Latin American studies expert might argue in favor of a petition for asylum.
An engineering expert might say a company should have made a safer product, and is therefore responsible for injuries. An economics expert might argue that a monopolist cheated consumers out of billions of dollars.
A communications expert might opine on likely employee interpretations of an HR manual. A criminology expert might show police used excessive force.
A psychology expert might show why harassment based on ethnicity would be reasonably likely to re-stimulate prior traumas and create significant emotional distress damages. A sociology expert might demonstrate why an employment or government policy that looks “color blind” in fact disproportionately burdens a minority community.
Ultimately, judges have substantial discretion in deciding whether an expert will help a jury or the court. There is also a balance of more progressive judges and more conservative ones. However, the expert should always require payment for any work performed for an attorney even if a judge does not ultimately permit testimony before the court.
Judges want experts who base their opinions on sufficient facts, use reliable principles and methods, and reliably connect those principles and methods to the facts of the case. However, what counts as “reliable” can be different depending on the expert’s field.
The federal advisory committee notes on the expert witness rule say, “Some types of expert testimony will be more objectively verifiable, and subject to the expectations of falsifiability, peer review, and publication, than others. Some types of expert testimony will not rely on anything like a scientific method, and so will have to be evaluated by reference to other standard principles attendant to the particular area of expertise.”
A doctoral education is a significant signal to the court that an expert is familiar with the standard principles of the discipline.
The rule notes say, “For example, when a law enforcement agent testifies [as an expert witness] regarding the use of code words in a drug transaction, the principle used by the agent is that participants in such transactions regularly use code words to conceal the nature of their activities. The method used by the agent is the application of extensive experience to analyze the meaning of the conversations.” (Emphasis added.)
Earning a PhD is among the best ways to become familiar with a field’s principles and methods. However, there are barely any resources to transform people with PhDs into successful expert witnesses.
People often get into this line of work almost by accident. Perhaps a professor writes an article that a lawyer happens upon during case research, and the lawyer contacts the professor with an expert opportunity. Maybe someone heard a friend of a friend had helped some lawyer somewhere win a case.
So maybe you do some Googling and try to piece together all of the seemingly random things you have to do to break into the field. However, the best expert witnesses are too busy serving their clients to train their competition.
This means far fewer people with PhDs are even attempting to do this important work. That is a very different problem from academia, where practically every doctoral candidate at least considers seeking a faculty position.
That’s where our PhD Consulting Accelerator comes in. The Accelerator is a step-by-step training and certification program that empowers people with PhDs to become expert witnesses.
We offer an eight week intensive training with lectures and action checklists. The lectures are recorded and can be watched at your convenience.
After completing the Accelerator and passing an exam you will receive a certification that can be included on your C.V., website, and LinkedIn profile. You need a score of 70% or better to pass the exam. You have 3 attempts to pass. This certification is offered by Attorney IO to signal learning and competence to potential hiring law firms. It is not related to any legal or judicial requirement. You’ll also get a digital and printable certificate suitable for framing.
Our training recognizes that becoming an expert witness is only half the battle. Every successful business owner knows that a business needs more than a good service to be competitive.
No business has a guarantee of finding enough customers. This includes expert witness businesses. However, skilled marketing can considerably reduce this risk. Marketing in 2019 is both an art and a science that can be the difference between a failing practice and one where you have too many opportunities to accept them all.
That’s why about half of the Accelerator is dedicated to becoming an expert witness, with the rest focusing on building a marketing pipeline to fill your calendar.
OK, but why should you trust a lawyer on marketing? I have two professional passions in life: law and marketing.
I’ve used public relations strategies to get featured in The Washington Post, Forbes, USA Today, Business Insider, The Los Angeles Times, Vox, Law360, MSN, Slate, Law.com, the American Bar Association, and many more publications.
I’ve taught digital marketing to over 60,000 enrolled students.
I’ve worked with some of the biggest marketing software companies in the world.
I’ve also developed a reliable system that can laser target people I think would benefit most from my services. This system gradually takes people through a funnel starting with free educational content, and nurtures the people for whom my services would be a real value, up until they buy.
Leveraging the enormous amount of data and inventory (the amount of ads people see), I’ve built a framework that can pinpoint thousands of people likely to be good fits and engage them with relevant ads for a tiny fraction of the price of traditional advertising.
You can use this same methodology to attract lawyers to your expert business, educate them about how you can provide value, and nurture them into eager buyers. For example, if paying $10,000 to an expert produced $100,000 in value to a case, it’s one of the best investments anyone can make. How many university administrators feel that way about faculty members?
Skilled marketing lets you show people your true value to them, and claim your fair share of it.
Below is a detailed syllabus of what you will learn if we have the privilege of welcoming you to the Accelerator. Roughly the first half teaches you how to become an expert witness. The rest shows you how to skyrocket your potential with skilled marketing.
Going from PhD Holder to Expert Witness
1. Academia vs. Being an Expert Witness
I. You’ve spent years ensconced in academic life. Whether you’re still a student or you’ve been teaching for years, academia is a universe unto itself.
II. How is being an expert witness similar? How is it different? How can you translate what you’ve invested so much in learning on the academia side, and use it to bootstrap a career as an expert witness.
III. Deciding whether being an expert makes more sense as a supplemental earning opportunity or as a full time career.
2. Identifying your initial “zone of opportunity.”
I. The US has seen an avalanche of criminal and civil litigation. In 2006 alone, there were over 100 million cases filed.
II. Your zone of opportunity is at the intersection of your expertise and what people care so much about that they argue about it in court.
III. How can you dependably identify your zone of opportunity?
3. How can you cultivate and expand your zone of opportunity?
I. How can you steer your career to maximize your desirability as an expert witness?
II. How can you build awareness in the legal community of the value of your discipline?
III. How can you target your messaging and awareness building to those pockets of the legal community most receptive to and in need of your services?
4. What do attorneys and courts look for in an expert witness (and how do you give it to them)?
I. Courts have broad discretion to allow experts to testify. How do you educate them so they know your services will be of at least some value to a jury?
II. Attorneys lean on experts for everything from deciding whether to file a case, what questions to ask the other side, what arguments to make, and of course persuading the other side and the court that their client is in the right. How can you speak the dual languages of your field and of the law to give attorneys what they want most from you?
5. What does a day (or month) in the life of an expert look like?
I. There are two main types of experts: testifying experts and experts that just consult. How specifically can both types of experts lead to attorney and party success?
II. What does it look like to go from speaking with an attorney, to researching a case, to writing an expert report, and to potentially defending that report?
6. How can you draft a compelling expert report?
I. What does your hiring attorney want from this report?
II. How might the other side confront the report?
III. What does a judge want from a report?
IV. What is persuasive to juries?
7. Experts may be deposed by their own side or the other side. How do you handle an expert’s deposition?
I. Experts are paid well to sit for a deposition. There’s a reason for that. They involve rigorous work to support your expert opinions against another side that will disagree almost no matter what.
II. What are the rules of an expert deposition?
III. What is your side likely to do during a deposition, and what is the other side likely to do?
8. Cases often settle before an actual trial. When they don’t, experts are often called to testify. How can you be prepared to testify?
I. Who is involved in a trial and what do they expect?
II. What types of things are you as an expert allowed to speak to, and what is outside of your domain?
III. How do you deal with an opposing counsel intent on tripping you up?
IV. How do you best communicate your positions to the court.
Second half: leveraging digital marketing to skyrocket your potential expert opportunities
9. How do you publish a low cost, high impact website without prior computer skills?
I. A good website gently nurtures your target audience with educational content that teaches them the value of your discipline to the legal profession.
II. Your website is also a 24/7 salesperson on autopilot. You can use it to sell the prospects you’d be most able to serve, and to book appointments to discuss terms.
10. How do you zero in on the precise content that will best connect with your targeted pockets of the legal community?
I. Content marketing is a win-win for the publisher and audience. You get to nurture and deepen your relationship to prospects. By publishing high value content, you demonstrate the value that they can expect from you if they hire you.
II. Content marketing also educates people who may know very little about your field. Academia is often on the cutting edge of scholastic developments. The law tends to lag behind. Good content marketing educates the right pockets of lawyers that your discipline can bring serious value to their clients (and themselves).
11. How do you distribute your content beyond your own website?
I. Distribution is crucial to good marketing. It’s important to drive traffic to your site. However, it’s also important to publish your content in the places your audience already frequents. This is the golden combination that maximizes engagement with your message.
II. There are plenty of free and paid resources for content distribution. Which of these are right for you and your work?
12. Paid ads are an investment that can give you better ROI than almost anything else. How can you best take advantage of advertising in a digital age?
I. Google is worth about 800 billion dollars. Facebook is worth about $500 billion dollars. People think Google is mostly a search company, and Facebook is mostly a social media company. Yet searches and social media are free.
II. Advertising insiders know that the true trillion dollar innovations of these and similar companies come from their revolution of advertising. Simply put, advertising could be moderately effective in the past. Now, many thousands of the smartest minds work tirelessly to make ads increasingly better investments.
III. Facebook currently estimates a $5 ad to people with strong lawyer-related interests can reach 2,100 to 6,000 people. For $5!
IV. Paid ads are also scalable on demand. Just $50 spent on the above targeted Facebook audience would yield an estimated 21,000 to 60,000 people individually seeing your ad!
13. What are “marketing funnels” and how can you use them to nurture attorneys from oblivious to eager customers of your expert business?
I. Decades ago some of the best marketing minds discovered that people mostly do not buy from unfamiliar businesses. In other words, you shouldn’t ask someone to marry you on the first date. Funnels are the familiarization process of the business world.
II. One example of this recognizes people can move down a funnel from:
A. pain aware (I’d like to win more cases, and get more value from my settlements and verdicts); to
B. solution aware (an expert can help me better serve my clients); to
C. service aware (this expert offers services I think I could use); to
D. most aware (I’ve read all this person’s stuff and I think we could do great things together!).
III. You’ll learn step-by-step how to make these funnels to better educate your audience and prime them to seek out your services.
14. Copywriting is sales in written form. How can you tap into buyer psychology to help your audience best realize the value you can provide?
I. There are powerful, billion dollar incentives driving research into what triggers make people buy products and services.
II. Attorneys like to think of themselves as a special breed. It’s not true! Attorneys are human beings with basically the same constellation of desires and predispositions as anyone else.
III. Skilled writing with sales in mind incorporates best practices from buyer psychology to connect the value you bring to the table with what your prospect deeply wants.
IV. By “standing on the shoulders of giants” from the copywriting industry, you’ll best capture the attention of attorneys who could benefit most from your expertise.
15. Data is one of the most valuable assets in 2019. What does that even mean? How can you use comprehensive marketing data to consistently double down on what works with your marketing and eliminate what doesn’t?
I. Before digital ads, advertising was a big expense. It was difficult to get any metrics on what worked and what didn’t. So, people got used to thinking of ads as a big gamble that was just as likely to work as to fail. That’s all in the past!
II. The trillion dollar hidden revolution from Silicon Valley is that each component of advertising can be rapidly assessed for profitability. When you know what’s profitable and what’s not, you can cut losing campaigns and scale up winning ones.
III. You’ll learn how to zero in on what parts of your funnel may need work, which pockets of your audience are more receptive than others, and what messaging resonates most powerfully. You’ll learn to use data to refine and recalibrate your marketing to optimally connect your valuable offering to the people who most appreciate it. Our analytical framework makes these assessments easy even if you hate numbers and need your phone to calculate a tip.
16. The press is eager to learn about (subsets of) your expertise. You can build credibility and authority by being cited by leading publications. How do you leverage this win-win situation to get major media opportunities?
I. I developed a publicity methodology built from the ground up to provide immense value to the press and their audiences. When you maximize the value you provide to the press, they’ll maximize the value they provide to you.
II. I’ll show you step-by-step how I came to be featured in The Washington Post, Forbes, USA Today, Business Insider, The Los Angeles Times, Vox, Law360, MSN, Slate, Law.com, the American Bar Association, and many more publications.
III. PR is immensely valuable. Good press can move people into your funnels and ecosystem, and ultimately turn into work opportunities. The right press attention also lasts much longer than the initial publishing.
IV. You can leverage the authority of being featured by major media outlets as a massive credibility booster. Good citations from the press are also among the most important signals to Google that your website should be listed highly in relevant search results. This means good PR earns free Google traffic for your ecosystem.
V. You can even tout your press in your actual work as an expert. You can use it to increase your credibility with your hiring attorney, the other side, and the court.
Joining the PhD Consulting Accelerator
This intensive training is exactly what you need to embark on what may be the most rewarding path available to people with PhDs.
Your PhD is one of the most time and resource intensive achievements on the planet. It confers enormous value in our society. You just have to know the right places to look and levers to pull. That is why it is so important that your training is practical, specific, and highly actionable.
Our eight week step-by-step roadmap can be your ticket to go from underappreciated PhD holder to valuable and valued contributor to the judicial system.
For a limited time, we are offering the entire training and certification for just $299. This price equates to about an hour and 14 minutes of a median non-medical expert’s time according to a recent major survey.
To learn how to provide massive and tangible value to the courts, shape the law toward equity and justice, and craft marketing campaigns that position you as an authority, click the button below now.