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An Interview with Expert Witness Rhonda Harper

An Interview with Expert Witness

Ms. Rhonda Harper

Ms. Rhonda Harper shares how she became an Expert Witness and what it takes to be successful in this exclusive interview.

Q How did you become an expert witness?

A It was almost by accident. I was leading a boutique management and marketing consulting and research firm. Out of the blue an attorney called me upon the referral of one of my competitors who didn't have the time to take on the case. So, they asked me if I would be interested. At that time I didn't even know what an "expert witness" did.

Q Did you take on that first case that was referred to you?

A Not at first. I was concerned whether or not I was truly qualified and if would be a negative to current and potential clients of my consulting firm. After several conversations with the law firm, I decided to try it out.

Q How did that first case turn out?

A The federal case involved two national corporations. I was brought in as the expert in brand equity, defamation/reputation, marketing, product management, and retailing. My side was in an uphill battle and everyone knew it. The firm lost the case but was very pleased in my ability to help mitigate the judgement. In fact, they still serve as a reference today, more than 15 years later!

Q Did you immediately start advertising as an "Expert Witness"?

A  No; however, I did take on a couple cases a year for the first few years. Remember, I was running a company in addition to doing this work! Being an Expert Witness is very demanding on your time and capabilities. Separately, I get most of my clients as repeat business or through word-of-mouth.

Q When did you begin to focus on litigation consulting and research as an Expert Witness?

A  In 2011, I 'retired' from corporate and consulting work at age 50. It was then that I really "hung out my shingle" as an expert witness. And, it turned out very well. By 2013 I was working with more than 20 law firms a year.

I've been hired as an expert in research, licensing, commercial reasonableness, merchandising personal injury, advertising, and more for more than hundreds of law firms since then. Many of these firms have engaged me more than once. And during this same timeframe, I launched a couple successful start-ups unrelated to this industry!

Q What do you think makes a good Expert Witness?

A  It is a very unique job. You have to be:

  1. An expert with experience! My functional expertise was built over 25+ years experience as a Fortune 500 executive.
  2. A good student. You have to love to read, do research, and write academic style reports. I have had law firms send me 10 banker boxes full of documents and been told to figure out what you think!
  3. An effective consultant in the legal environment. They have special ways of doing things and you have to play by their rules.
  4. Someone with really thick skin. This is a tough field with lots of smart people playing to win.
  5. Able to have a long-term commitment. Oftentimes cases last for years. Your role as an expert weaves in and out over time.
  6. Someone with gravitas. Whether you are working with clients, being deposed, or testifying in court, you have to be persuasive. You have to be able to be truthful, clear, effective, and credible.

Q How many more years do you think you'll continue being an Expert Witness?

A  I really enjoy what I do and at age 61 I'm still on the younger end of the spectrum among my competitors! This is something that I  do on my own, from my home or lake house, and with my dogs at my feet! Why would I stop any time soon?

Rhonda Harper MBA, Expert Witness

Retained by hundreds of law firms, Ms. Harper is courtroom proven in virtually every circuit along with JAMS, AAA, and TTAB.  Her 30 year career includes serving as a Fortune 100 chief marketing officer and an adjunct marketing professor. In addition to providing litigation consulting and research in the areas of business, licensing, marketing, advertising, in-store merchandising, and strategy, Ms. Harper is routinely retained to formulate expert surveys, conduct rebuttal critiques, or construct rebuttal surveys to show the potential difference in results with properly designed and executed surveys. She has extensive experience and a deep understanding of survey design, sampling, question construction, data analysis, and the methodological pitfalls that can introduce bias or systematic error.

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