This is a serious debate among litigators. I have been in a number of court hearings and depositions where I have opposed expert witness lawyers. The lawyers who served as expert witnesses are very seasoned lawyers who made an excellent presentation with in depth understanding of the law that governs real estate.
In commercial real estate litigation, it could be helpful to hire a lawyer to serve as an expert witness rather than your firm doing the research on the cases which could reinforce the positives of the position. It would seem at first glance, that your firm’s expertise combined with a legal expert witness would provide you with great ammunition in your case. Further, it could expedite your case since your firm would be obtaining opinions on the legal perspective of the case.
The commercial real estate expert witness comes from a completely different position in a case but pays particular attention to the law that governs real estate. The practicing real estate professional has the know-how of what actually happens in the business. The discussion of custom and practice are two words that this professional lives by. Your firm should employ a professional that is still involved in the "day to day" practices of real estate transactions, management, development practices and contract negotiations.
My personal view is that I really enjoy sparring with a lawyer who is an expert witness. The lawyer can serve your firm well with the legal aspects of a case, on the other hand, the real estate professional can instruct you with what happens in the trenches every day. My personal friend, David White, is a fantastic real estate lawyer and we are working on a presentation entitled "The Tale of Two Experts". Stay tuned for this presentation at your office in the near future.