Be an Expert: Why a Start Today Can Save Your Tomorrow
This post contains affiliate links.
This is a guest post by Dr. Gretchen Green, a radiologist with a thriving business with experts and founder of the Expert Witness Startup School.
Non-clinical income can be a key strategy to gain financial freedom if even doctors receive cut wages at best and, at worst, become unemployed even in the midst of a pandemic.
Through expert work, Dr. Green uses her skills and knowledge as a doctor to get her clinical work and life outside of medicine back on track. Enjoy!
Married to medicine
When I was a full-time partner in a large radiology practice, I worked days, nights, evenings, and weekends with no control over my schedule. When washing, I washed my children's outfits that I never wore. I saw her in PJs in the morning before I went to work, kissed her warm cheeks goodbye, and saw her again at night when I came home after dinner to put her in bed.
My friends in medicine felt the same way and wondered if they would regret lost time, but saw no way out except to work harder, sometimes for less.
In order to increase the savings, I worked additional weekends. I've seen my tax bill go up and my free time no longer exists. My children received an A in "easy to separate from parents" when they rated the daycare center.
When my children were 6 and 8 years old and the market tailwind had brought our hard-earned savings to a sufficient level by 2016, I left my practice and took a Sabbath year to regain control of my life.
A sabbatical saved me
This year I switched from a W-2 employee to the business owner of an expert practice. I had been an expert before and loved critical thinking and the challenge of doing something new, but still in my medical field.
I took on a new part-time job in radiology, but I wanted to increase my income to make up for the loss of full-time clinical income, and testifying seemed to be a great solution. I attended expert courses, read as much as I could and built up my network of lawyer contacts organically.
It was worthwhile to use my knowledge in a new way, to think about medical-legal cases and to form my opinion with an evidence-based approach.
I learned that I could use my time by shifting the hours I spent reviewing cases to work in the morning before the children got up and started a new part-time clinical job. I replaced my previous partner's takeaway income and worked about half the hours with no nights or weekends.
I went to school and saw my friends. I could finally help my mother realize her dream of traveling around the world with my children, just as she did with me.
Safe with uncertainty
At the time of the COVID 19 pandemic, I was able to voluntarily free myself from my part-time job and quarantine it at home. I continued to receive new cases to review, which meant that I was financially secure even though my investment portfolio shrank about 1/3 during the market downturn.
My little children needed a lot of support to get used to distance learning and to adapt to a completely new way of life, and my husband's work as a doctor increased when he took on additional tasks in the administration of COVID-19. I was able to spend as much time as necessary teaching my children at home and keeping myself and my family healthy.
My rate of new case reviews increased during the pandemic as lawyers needed experts to review cases that they had no time to deal with while dealing with deposits and litigation.
Lawyers have contacted me to expand their network of experts, but have been cautious about making demands on doctors without knowing the painful truth that so many doctors are currently financially injured, and would like to take the opportunity to increase their income when they need it the most.
At typical hourly rates of $ 500 to $ 900 / hour, it is not difficult for most doctors to earn a significant additional income.
Why NOT serve as an expert?
When examining the work of experts, doctors often fear the following:
1) I don't have time.
Now is the perfect time to do what you as a doctor already do best to change your career the way I did. This is work that can make you love medicine more AND improve your work-to-life ratio, but it is best for you.
With online courses and remote collaboration in real time, investing time in yourself has never been easier. And it could change your life like it did for me.
2) I don't speak legal.
The good news is that you are already an experienced doctor. You don't have to be an amateur lawyer. However, you need to know how medical-legal cases work and how to communicate as an expert to maintain objectivity.
Whole books were written about communication as an expert. You may not even know what to say when a lawyer calls you out of the blue about a new case. The good news is that I enjoy speaking to lawyers and have learned a lot to work with them.
Lawyers told me they wish doctors knew more about what to say (or NOT say) during a call to ask them to review a case. In response to your feedback, I wrote a checklist for the first call to guide the conversation and help you communicate safely and effectively.
3) I could never testify against another doctor.
Acting as an expert means objectively examining a case and giving your professional opinion. A case in which the plaintiff's attorney will keep you can never continue if you find that there is no violation of the due diligence standard. (In many states, doctors may never know that a lawsuit has been brought, but ultimately has not been brought against them, because an expert has not determined that they are at fault.)
I am a lifelong learner and teacher and love using evidence-based medicine to evaluate a new case and formulate my opinion – it is a mental challenge that also makes me an informed and better doctor.
My radiology practice values me as a resource when a clinical question arises because I have worked hard to study the literature in my area.
4) I don't know how to start.
Regardless of whether this is your first or 40th case, you can learn the skills required for an expert practice. You can find online resources or take a course. My first case was referred by a colleague and my second case came 7 days after being included in an expert register.
I am often kept in cases where multiple experts are needed. It is difficult for lawyers to find experts, and for doctors it is even more difficult to find each other. I want to change that by connecting a community of specialists to my network of more than 6,000 lawyers.
"Instead of asking us when our next vacation is, we should build a life we don't have to escape." Seth Godin
You don't have to invent a new product or acquire an MBA to start a new business. All you need is the right knowledge, skills and connections to make a significant extra income as an expert.
How could your job make your next ideal life possible?
Would you like to start and build up your practice for experts? Then take a look at the Expert Witness Startup School!