Once Upon A Time: Anecdote of an Educational Expert

TASA ID: 408

Let me tell you a story about the first case on which I worked…a long time ago and even before I became familiar with TASA.  The story will, perhaps, be useful to client attorneys and experts alike.

Many years ago, while operating the company which I founded (sort of a head hunter for educators) I had served as president of the National Association of Teachers Agencies (now defunct).  Shortly after my tenure in that position, I received a phone call from an attorney in Kansas City, MO.  I’m in New York.

I inquired of the attorney as to how he had located me, and he indicated that such information was both unimportant and classified.  What he wanted was my expert advice from both an educator’s point of view and the point of view of a personnel executive in private business.

I was a bit “turned-off” to his initial request since he was both ‘gruff’ and vague in his answers to my questions.  He did ask what my hourly fee would be and I, not having any knowledge of what to ask, indicated I would accept $250 per hour for work at my leisure and a full eight hours for any depositions, travel days, trial appearances, etc.  I expected an argument, or at least some negotiation, but there was none.  He merely agreed.  He further indicated that the trial had been going on for some period of time already and he wanted to bring me up to speed.  I was to expect delivery of materials from his office which would include all background materials, prior depositions and testimony, his own professional vitae and that of [all] opposing counsel.

A few days later the UPS truck arrived at my office and the poor, exhausted driver delivered 11 cartons (the type which would hold 10 reams of 8 ½” x 11” paper).  I was dumbfounded and called the attorney back – perhaps trying to see if he was serious about the number of hours it would take me to read the materials and also, perhaps looking for a way out of my obligation to him.  Again, he did not “blink” and told me to begin reading as quickly as I could, with the understanding that the hours (and my fee) would quickly mount.

I read constantly!  I took notes!  I came to understand that this was an educational defacto segregation case in a major city in the mid-west of the United States where the school district had developed a magnet educational program, which on paper at least, was magnificent.  The existing problem was that the school district was unable to hire the appropriate talent to implement the program.  I was to examine all aspects of the program and see if I could come up with an analysis as to why the school district could not find or hire the teachers and administrators who would be capable of getting the program off the ground and into reality.

My reading continued!

About three weeks later, the attorney (who, by the way was the leading counsel representing the children of the city involved) called to indicate that he would be coming to New York to depose me.  A mutually convenient date was set.

My personal office space was rather small – approximately 14’ by 14’.  On the scheduled date, promptly a 9 a.m., the attorney arrived.  He was accompanied by a court reporter, which I had expected.  What I was not expecting was the company he brought to New York with him.  Tagging along was:  The assistant district attorney for the city in question; the lead attorney for the teachers of the district; the lead attorney for the mayor of the city; the lead attorney for the municipal unions of the city; a representative of the governor’s office (although he may not actually have been a member of the bar) and an older gentleman who I much later learned was the sitting judge for the trial under way.  I was overwhelmed and the room was stifling crowded.  He said nothing except ‘hello.’

The deposition began.  Each attorney took a turn in questioning me.  Each was long-winded, loud, and often argumentative.  We broke for lunch and then resumed.  In total, the deposition took just under eight hours, not including the lunch break.  Although confused about where this entire experience was heading, I was really intrigued with the number of hours and; therefore, the number of dollars which I was ‘banking.’

I continued reading.

Another week went by and I received a copy of the deposition transcript, complete with multiple errors.  I was instructed to edit the document as best I could.  Another 3 hours of reading.  Another $750 earned.

I continued reading.

About three weeks later, I was summoned to the mid-west to participate in another deposition, this time on their turf.  Not trying to be greedy, but seeing how far this entire matter may go, I – almost sarcastically – I said, “I don’t travel alone.”  My wife must accompany me.  Lo-and-behold, by special delivery (this is all before fax machines, cellphones, etc. were popular) two airline, round trip tickets arrive (this was still in the day when airlines issued printed tickets) and off we went to Kansas City.

A short walk from the really up-scale hotel in which they had reserved a suite of rooms for us, I appeared to face another eight hours of grilling from all those assembled lawyers. I was more relaxed and; therefore, perhaps more responsive this time around.  Nonetheless, the time appeared to move quickly.  The attorney who had ‘hired’ me then made dinner arrangements for himself and me, and included my wife.  There is nothing like a steak dinner in cattle country.  We actually ate in an establishment called ‘The Stockyard’ which appeared to actually be in a stockyard.

I never actually finished reading the exhaustive materials originally sent to me.  Weeks went by and finally I was told when to appear in the court for testimony.  During the extensive preparation and deposition experiences, I had been told to expect to be on the stand for at least 8 hours, perhaps even longer.

Arriving in the court house in the lovely downtown portion of Kansas City, I was struck with the elegant appearance of old style architecture, colorful wall murals, and hushed tones of everyone around.  Considering this was about 10 years or more before our infamous 9/11 murderous bombing, there was no ‘entrance’ examination to the building and almost no obvious security around.  Once in the court room, the ‘Old Gentlemen’ was walking around shaking hands with just about everyone.  When he appeared in front of me, I stood and offered my hand, which he readily took.  He commented that he was most impressed with having met me in my office all those months ago and introduced himself as ‘the judge.’  Apparently this trial had been going on for several years by this point and the judge – at least informally – was a friend of everyone in the room.

Twenty minutes later, he appeared in his robe and the day’s trial episode was to begin.  I was called, sworn and seated.  The first attorney to examine me was the one who hired me initially.  He ran through the extensive list of my credentials as he established me as a qualified ‘expert’ in the field of educational personnel.  His questioning took about15 minutes.

Next up was the Assistant District Attorney (ADA) who had come to New York for my deposition.  Appropriate welcome, thank you and other social comments were exchanged.  His initial question was: “Tell me doctor, how you prepared your report?”  I began explaining how I did my research, and before I finished three sentences, he interrupted, and repeated the question.  I’d assumed I understood his question, but decided to approach my response from a different angle.  Again, very shortly into my response the ADA quite firmly said I was not responding appropriately and almost angrily again repeated the question.  Somewhat upset, and confused, I said distinctly, with emphasis on each word; “With a typewriter, sir.”

I thought I understood the question. 

I was summarily dismissed.  No further questions from the ADA and none from any of the other attorneys either.  Rather than 8 hours of testimony, I was finished and out of the court in less than 30 minutes…and on my way home.

I never did find out what the object of the question was or where my response went awry.

Two weeks later, having submitted my voucher for payment including all the reading, travel, deposition, and trial time, a check arrived fully covering every detail I’d outlined in my request for payment.  There was no accompanying letter or thank you.

More than three years passed without any word from the people out west.  The New York newspapers did not report on the case.  Finally, a letter of thanks arrived with a full description of the outcome of the case, and indicating that what I had provided in my written report was the essence of the settlement.

The entire experience was rewarding…not just financially.  I learned volumes of court procedure, deposition routine, and most importantly of all, how to structure my responses for all of the subsequent cases which came my way.


This article discusses issues of general interest and does not give any specific legal or business advice pertaining to any specific circumstances.  Before acting upon any of its information, you should obtain appropriate advice from a lawyer or other qualified professional.

This article may not be duplicated, altered, distributed, saved, incorporated into another document or website, or otherwise modified without the permission of TASA.

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