When, Why and How to Ask for Prepayments and Extra Payments As an Expert Witness

Should you ask for a retainer? Yes, you should. If a case appears simple, a modest retainer fee equivalent to two or three hours of your consulting rate may be fair. You can reduce your initial retainer fee under special circumstances or for limited scope of work. In the same fashion, you can raise your retainer at other times when the initial work will be dramatically larger. After assessing how many hours of initial work you will need to undertake, let that guide you to the size of your retainer.

Be particular about the initial expectations so that you can quantify the initial retainer. Ask, and agree, on the materials you must read, the research or investigations you must complete, and consider what tests you must run. Confirm your understanding with an email, a fax or a letter, depending on the urgency of the work. Then, wait until you've received the retainer check or payment before starting the work. If the attorney tells you that the job is urgent, send him wire transfer information so that he can wire your retainer directly to your bank account. This can easily happen in a 24-hour period.

Always ask for an initial payment before you begin work on a case or you might end up working for nothing. If, by the end of the case, the hours you spent did not consume the retainer, you should refund the difference.

Occidentally an attorney will ask you to do work for free. A free first telephone conversation representatives goodwill and can be an encouragement to engage you when the case seems right. Doing analysis or research for advocates and charging them nothing is unprofessional. On the other hand, you can certainly consider pro-bono work from time to time, just as attorneys occasionally do.

One novel element remains to consider. As your reputation grows, attorneys will sometimes retain you just to be sure that the other side can not employ you. As a result, you should value the use of your name as an expert witness, and considering imposing a minimum fee whenever an attorney wants to retain you. You can apply this minimum charge against services, so it will have no impact on the total cost to the client unless the attorney never uses your services.

In my retainer contract, my terms require both an advance retainer and a replenishment of all or part of the retention from time to time. The amount of replenishment depends on what additional work the attorney requires of me. Some experts require that the attorney or client maintain a minimum retainer. To do so, you should bill to restore that minimum whenever the balance in the pre-paid account for the client falls below a specific level. Ask for new advance payments whenever it becomes similar that additional work will deplete the existing balance in the client's account.

Typically, your client will not have to replenish the retainer if the additional work only requires one to several hours. But you should request advance payment in the following instances:

1. If a sudden surge occurs in discovery materials for your review.

2. If your attorney requests that you travel for conferences and meetings.

3. If any investigations require you to travel to job sites or company offices for observations, meetings, and any other explorations.

4. If your deposition has been scheduled. You will have to reserve a variable number of days in your schedule for the deposition, for a pre-deposition conference, and possibly for the travel time as well.

5. If a trial has been scheduled; you will have the same factors of blocking out time for possible travel, meetings, and testimony.

You should also estimate airfare, hotel, car, and food expenses as well. You can contain those in requested advance payments. If you ask for advance payments, ask for them well in advance. Larger companies often have processing delays for invoices or payment requests. You do not want those delays to stand in the way of your work. Do not wait until the last minute to ask for advance payment. Your business needs to be organized enough to estimate the size of advance payments. You can base those payments on discussions with the attorney about the progress of the case and what work you expect will be required of you.

The most important advance payment is the one that precedes a trial. Be firm in asking for advance payment for your anticipated billings before traveling to testify at a trial. Clients have now spent a large sum of money by the time a trial begins. If the client loses in the trial, he either may not be able, or choose not, to pay you. But because he needs your testimony at the trial, put the pressure on him to pay beforehand and not on you to collect afterwards.

Receiving advance payment for your trial testimony time permits you to respond "No" to the potential cross examining question of whether the client owes you any money.

If the client has now paid you, you can honestly point out that the verdict in the case will have no affect on your testimony.

Communication Strategies to Avoid Communication Breakdown

What actually matters in the chain of communication is whether the sender and the receiver are in sync and on the same wavelength. If that is the case then there is never going to be any communication breakdown that occurs.

There might have been times when you communicated something to someone and the person nodded sagely. You felt that the person had understood exactly what you wanted. But, alas, the end product was not something that you had in mind. So much for being a good communicator! In order for communication to flow smoothly and seamlessly, the starting point of the communication chain, the sender must take the ownership and responsibility of being an able and effective communicator.

The sender does not only have to draft the message but, must also consider how it is going to be received by the recipient and how will the message be interpreted. The entire chain of communication that starts from the sender does not end until the receiver has understood perfectly what you are trying to convey and also generated enough feedback for the sender, by means of action or a communication.

The objective behind communication is to create an understanding amongst both the parties involved and what outcome is required. In the communication model there has to be a two way communication between the sender and the receiver. Same is the case with the sharing of the responsibilities too. The onus lies on both of them to try and get it right, the very first time.

The sender on their part must be crisp and precise in their communication. The sender must convey relevant information in a coherent manner.

The receiver on their part must be an active listener and must be able to comprehend exactly what the sender is trying to convey. In case of any questions, they must seek clarification before doing what they feel the sender requires. Also, the receiver must never try and assume things. In case of any doubts it is always best to check with the sender from whom the communication commenced. This will spare them a lot of heartache and trouble later on.

As human beings we have embedded filters that we use to allow only what we want to hear to come our way. Therefore, what we hear is what we want to hear and not what the opposite person might have wanted us to hear. As a sender, you can cross check to find out if the message you conveyed has been interpreted on the opposite side exactly as you wanted it to be.

Poor communication can result in a lot of discord, errors and misunderstandings all around you. These can be avoided if the intent is made known clearly by the sender, in clear and specific language, with no room for ambiguity. Therefore, the sender must state clearly what they want and mean. The receiver on their part must seek clarification of the sender’s intent when uncertain. The receiver on their part must have good questioning skills to fall back on.

Hence, clear communication techniques are a must for all concerned.

Top Ten Signs of Poor Customer Service

Here it is – The Top Ten Signs of Poor Customer Service!

Drum roll please.

Number 10

An Us vs Them Mindset. This person thinks that Customers are out to get him or her. They feel the customer decided to wake up that day and "mess with me for no reason." This also includes the "Poor me" and the "I hate my _____" (insert job, life, spouse, etc) person who feels that everyone is out to get them.

Number 9

Poorly trained staff. Yep. It seems to be everywhere. And I hear the same things all the time. "I do not have time to train" or "I train them and they quit" or "I want to try them out for awhile before I train them." These are poor excuses. Heck, I've even used the "try for awhile" one myself. You know what? There is no excuse for poorly trained staff. If you are the person responsible, you need to take a look at your paycheck. It represents payment for services rendered as a Professional! Not an amateur.

Number 8

Stiff, forced or awkward answers. When they speak it sounds like a teenager trying to explain why they came home late. ("Uhhh, you will not believe it man.") This is a lack of confidence in the product, poor training (see above), lack of skill or lack of aptitude. You can fix the confidence by learning the product, fix the skills with practice (role play, scripting) and conduct ongoing training. You can not fix the aptitude. There are some people who do not have the inner social, educational or people skills needed to work in the field of Customer Service.

Number 7

Uncommitted to the field of Customer Service or to the Customer. Very obviously especially when you ask them how long have they been there and they say something like "3 years" and yet the skill set they have belongs to a "day one never been in Customer Service" employee. That tells you something about them. I mean, you gotta figure they have about as much interest in becoming professional Customer Service people as a fish learning to fly. If they have not asked about training, company plans and their role in the big picture, they are telling you one of two things.

1. The place you work is sending a signal that everyone will work here will never progress beyond where they are now, so why bother.

2. They do not care to invest in themselves to become better at what they do.

And not committing themselves to the Customer by working to resolve situations is a big signal as well. These people throw their hands up at the first sign of trouble and say things like "I can not deal with this person" or "Why is everyone rude?" Some reasons for this behavior could be they feel as if they do not have the support or tools necessary, or they do not see the results that they expected from previous situations.

Number 6

Personnel are not Customer focused. They are instead focused on preservation. They want to preserve their status, position, seniority, etc. They very rarely extend themselves or reach out to customers.
It is a naturally occurring growth. Unfortunately, it's a cancerous growth. And you may need to remove it. Help them see that by continuing to perform in this manner that they are actually limiting them and not keeping anything. In fact, when there are rough waters, these are the first people you jettison as "dead weight."

Number 5

Customers have to ask for action to take place. It's called cattle prod Customer Service. They have to prod the personnel to get any action. And even then, may not get anything at all. In fact, they could possibly start a stampede! Anytime your customers are pushing your staff to get something done, something is wrong. And it's not the Customer!

Number 4

Frequent interruptions. Telephones, other employees, customer after customer, too many duties, not enough time, oh there are so many causes of interruptions. It is a symptom of our times. Just because computers and email and texting work fast, with no complaints, we expect our Customer Service to be the same way. Folks, it just is not so. No matter how many computers you have that hum, phones that ring and texting that flashes, if you do not have the human element in place, it's not going to work.
People need the human touch. It's that little warm feeling that comes from interacting with someone face to face.
What I am really trying to say is this.

HAVE ENOUGH STAFF! Not just enough, I mean enough.
Enough means no extra waiting, no wandering Customers, no standing in extra long lines, no "can not answer that question because I do not have time" and many other examples of being understaffed or "just enough" staff. Then have the processes and systems in place to back up your staff. And train them.

Number 3

In tense situations we raise our voices, flail our arms sometimes and generally have an effect on an entire area. Not moving the parties involved to another area is a sign of poor Customer Service. People know when something is not quite right. We sense it. It spreads from person to person without the need for speaking. It is obvious when we see it. In many cases, we feel there is a need to "stand your ground" with the Customer. Does that include include doing it at the front counter, reception area, parking lot, etc …? Why not move the Customer and you to an area that has some semblance of privacy and you can then air out your differences? It would definitely improve your image and other Customers perceptions.

Number 2

Unhappy people. That's right, unhappy people in your Customer Service department. They are there. And for whatever reason they are unhappy. Spouse, family situations, medical, you name it. And it bleeds over into their performance and to your Customer. If you are unhappy, do something about it. Talk to someone, get help! We already know you are unhappy! Let's work this out together so that we can conduct our business as Professionals! If you are unhappy because you are in Customer Service, then get out of it. Find a career you can be happy in. We'll manage without you. (In some cases, way better without you)

Number 1

Poor Attitude. What can I say? It's an internal thing. You can not fix it from the outside. People have to see it for themselves, change it for themselves. You wish you could push their attitude adjustment button; it just does not work that way.

If you are the person with the poor attitude, then do something about it. The rest of us are tired of it.

There they are! The Top Ten! If any of these fit you, your department or your life, Get After It!

Essential Elements of a Quality Management System

A good quality management system in a pharmaceutical company can significantly improve the net profit status, high quality medicines for patients, less rework and recall which save more money, good work environment and compliance with local and international regulations.

Quality management is a philosophy. It takes management understanding, commitment and responsibility before introducing and implementing the concept. Once practiced a good quality management system slowly develop or reshape a sustainable organization culture that pays off rapidly.

The initial step of introducing a good quality management into a system is to know the essential elements of the quality system and clear study from where to start. Company objectives should be clearly understood. Policies should be prepared. Then comes the design of the process flow, validating the process, material flow and organization chart. When a good integration between people, process and material is achieved the next step is to putting the integrated system in a state of control. Any deviation from the controlled system must be analysed and corrected.

Some basic but essential elements of Quality Assurance as depicted in GMP guidelines and ISO 9001 guideline for pharmaceutical industry can be listed as: the Preparation of standard operating procedures of a complete system maintaining cGMP principles; Preparation and maintenance of effective change control of quality and master file documentation; Recording and management of manufacturing change control; Recording and reporting procedure of Deviations of your systems; Quality concern investigation process; Customer complaint investigation procedure; Quality audit procedures; Vendor assessment, evaluation and certification procedure; Quality control laboratory procedure, Rework procedures for the defective manufactured products; Procedures on training for manufacturing staffs and recall procedure.

Standard operating procedures and manuals should be written in details and referenced to relevant other documents, so a new starter within the organization should be trained easily and expected to perform as per procedure. The result will be a common standard of activities across the organization, good tractability of work flow, deviations and ease of corrective actions as necessary.

Standard Operating Procedure

You should prepare SOPs, forms, templates and manuals, which can be used immediately as the system runs. Forms and templates should be used for record keeping which your people can follow routinely.

Documentations – Classification, Definition and Approval

Quality and Technical/Master file documents to be created to build up a good quality management system for your manufacturing sites. Definition of documents, their classification, approval requirements and retention requirements should be understood.

Quality Documentation Management and Change Control

Procedures to be created on how to generate new quality documents or change control of existing documents, review of quality documents, satellite file management, role of document author, approver, document control officer and satellite file administrator. In this procedures you will also define the numbering systems of different quality documents like audit files, SOPs, forms, templates, manuals, training files, QA agreements, project files etc and their effective archiving system.

Preparation, Maintenance and Change Control of Master Documents

Procedures to be created which will particularly focus on the management of master file documents like specifications, control methods, raw materials, finished goods and packaging specification and test reports, formulation, stability files etc required to generate during the product registration in the market.

Deviation Report System

It is a regulatory requirement to capture all sorts of deviations evolves in your systems in order to maintain the continuous improvement of your processes and systems. Procedures should be created that describes how to categorize the deviations between production, audit, quality improvements, technical deviations, customer complaints and environmental, health and safety deviations. It should also describes the management responsibilities of initiating deviation, capturing data, analysis, investigation, determination of assignable cause/s, generation of management report and initiatives to be taken on corrective and preventative actions.

Vendor Selection and Evaluation

Procedures to be followed during the vendor assessment and vendor evaluation for purchasing of raw materials, critical and non critical packaging components, laboratory supplies, engineering supplies and imported finished goods from the vendor. These instructions are essential for approving prospective vendor.

Vendor Certification

This procedure aims to describe the process by which a vendor may be certified to supply materials or services. This procedure applies to vendors that supply a material or service to be used at any stage of manufacture by operations. Here you will describe the roles of each department in the process to certify an approved vendor.

Product Complaint Procedure

You should have strong procedure to cover the receipt, logging, evaluation, investigation and reporting system of all complaints received from customers for the marketed products. This procedure should contain step by step instruction to be followed during the customer complaint management like numbering of complaint, registering the complaint, evaluation, determination of assignable cause for the complaint deviation, implementation of corrective and preventative actions, trending of complaints and handling of counterfeit products.

Annual Product Review

Some countries require reports as Annual Product Review to sell your products into their market. So you have to create instructions on how to do annual product review, to evaluate data, trends and to identify any preventative or corrective action that would lead to product quality improvements and report them to management.

Rework Procedure

Procedure should contain the step by step instructions to be followed when the rework of an in-process or completed finished good is required. Product Identification and Traceability The purpose of this procedure is to define the method used for the identification of all contributing materials that could affect product quality and to ensure their full traceability.

GMP Audits

Procedure should be created to describe the process of planning, performing, reporting and follow-up of different audits for your systems like Internal Quality audit, Vendor audit, Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) audit, EHS workplace inspection, Housekeeping audit.

Evaluation of Batch Documentation and Release for Sale

This procedure should describe the process of collection, evaluation and record of batch related document generated during the production of a batch before an authorized person can release the batch for sale.

GMP Training

Effective GMP related training modules to be created for your manufacturing staffs. Training records and reports have to produce on each employee as justified.

Management and Control of Contract Work

There should have procedure to describe the management and control of contract work provided by the contractors for packaging and finished products for your company as well as control of contract works done by your company on behalf of others.

Quality Concern Investigation Process

Procedure should be made that contains instructions to follow when conducting Investigations collection of data and information, analysis, assigning root cause, determine corrective and preventive actions.