Can I get a witness? An Expert Witness, that is

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I do a lot of very different things, and occasionally roll them under a business to support further curiosities. The least explored but most profitable activitiy for me is doing Expert witness engagements. This pays more than twice my current consulting rate (which is arguably a bit high for the market), and it turns out that I actually really enjoy the work!

In my adventures in Training, Learning & Development, I’ve gathered a lot of tools to help make complex things simple. As a result of doing that for YouTube/Google (where I helped make their extremely complicated ContentID toolset, Analytics, and global Digital Rights Management platform actually usable for their top tier partners around the world), I learned a lot myself about how YouTube works. I wrote up a couple of articles about my experiences, and one day got a call about serving as an Expert Witness in a case where YouTube was neither the plaintiff or the defendant, but that other companies were suing each other over the alleged improper use of the YouTube platform. So basically the legal system needed someone who knows YouTube’s backend to be able to make sense out of the technical parts so the lawyers better argue their case. I was happy to oblidge.

That first gig was a fluke, and much to my surprise I actually enjoyed the work a great deal! It basically consisted of me getting mounds of raw YouTube data, sorting through it, talking with lawyers, and writing up a report. Then the case settled out of court. Since then I’ve received that call two other times, once for a rather frivolous case that was dropped before I was fully brought on board, the other more recently for a very high-profile one that was extremely interesting and for which my analysis and expert report was instrumental in getting the case dismissed.

So far, I have not been deposed or provided testimony in court. I’ve been prepped for this (and strangely look forward to it, someday) but upon submission of my expert report, the cases have been dropped.

I had previously only put this in the “nice work if you can get it” category. I did go to the trouble of becoming an Elite-tier expert for IMS Expert Services. But I wasn’t sure how to try for more gigs, so I didn’t advertise it at all. That has recently changed with this website and videos like this one…

As you may notice, I also added being an Expert Witness in (surprise, surprise!) my primary field of expertise: Learning & Development.

I know that training records are often requested in a legal discovery effort because I’ve been tasked with producing them at times for clients to help defend them from personal injury & wrongful death suits. It’s helpful to the defense to prove that the employee has received sufficient training. But I also know how easy it is to forge such an audit trail, and a few tricks to tell if that has happened.

And while “sufficient” training is rather subjective in terms of the law, I feel very strongly that it should not be in the Learning & Development industry. I see a potential to change the nature of this industry that I’ve been working from the inside to change for years, and to do it by coming in from the outside and helping impact their liability — “risking” them into doing the right thing.

So now I’m not only throwing my hat in the ring as an Expert Witness for cases involving Entertainment Law or Intellectual Property Law, and only on one platform (YouTube) for which YouTube was not a named party, but I’m building out a plan and specific action steps to test my assumptions about how I could position myself to get more of that work AND found an entirely new angle to consider! I’m already devouring all the internet can feed me about Failure to Train cases, suits involving Negligent Training, and any other legal precedents I can find globally that might previous clients.

Since most cases do seem to settle out of court, I still don’t really even have a way to know how much such work there may be. If you know of some way I can obtain public records about how many training or YouTube platform cases happen in the USA (or in the world) in any given year, please tell me in the comments!

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