Middle Man

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

How can I educate the owners of the firm I’ve worked at for almost
twenty years about a dangerous risk of malpractice and litigious
exposure? I’m an engineer in a firm that does a lot of work supporting
attorneys in litigation. One of the firms founders has been the chief
testified for decades. He used to be sharp and fun to work with, a
great intellect who could make complicated information
understandable to lay people on the jury. Now I think he has
Alzheimer’s. I just spent nine agonizing minutes on the phone as he
struggled to open two files. He’s in Chicago for a trial and I swear he
hasn’t even read the report we researched and wrote but that he
signed. He refused to be involved in the analysis and skipped most
pre-trial prep meetings. He may squeak through this time but the new
owners deserve to know its time for him to retire. I don’t want to lose
my job, but if a case goes south I’m likely to be the scapegoat
anyhow. How can I be honest and avoid blame?

Middle Man

Dear Middle Man:

Any owner who would fire you for alerting him/her to a huge source of
risk is a fool you should try and run from. If you’ve been there thirty
years and the owner is new, then you are, or should be, considered a
valuable source of information. And if this expert is someone with
whom you’ve worked for years, you should be able to speak eloquently
about how he was, worked, and prepared in earlier years and how he
is and does now.

Focus on getting through this trial without a serious blunder. Then ask
for a conference with the owner. Your opening line is “We just dodged
a bullet.” “Bullet” should convey urgency and the “we” loyalty. Explain
the lack of prep and your perception of diminishing capacity. Say you
are happy to be a team player and will do what the boss asks. But say
that you’d like to work with other experts, perhaps up and coming
younger ones, whom you can teach good habits and help mentor into
a string of successors on the stand. If you don’t feel heard, brush up
your resume and see how you fare in the market.