No conflict over fees

I was not seriously misquoted, but it could be taken from your article (The Lawyer 15 November) that Michael Cohen and I are in conflict on this matter. This is not so. The Academy of Experts has a firm rule that contingent or conditional fees for experts are out of order and this is the view of almost all lawyers. In my article in The Expert in spring 1993 I was referring to future possibilities.

The Academy, in general, and the journal, The Expert, in particular, are forums for ideas. Accountancy evidence is often only relevant to quantum. If the evidence cannot affect liability and if the fees are not based on a percentage of the award then 'conditional fee' testimony cannot be described as necessarily 'hired gun'. Recently lawyers have been allowed to consider conditional fees for personal injury cases. The ethical position of accountants in this field is similar.

The integrity and independence of an expert are paramount and the formal opinion of all members of the Academy of Experts ought to be unaffected by any outside pressure including fees. In your leader you mention Lord Taylor as describing some experts as "mercenaries whose testimony is on offer to whoever engages them". Such experts are just as mercenary at an hourly rate.

In the US, decisions by jury, high punitive awards and lawyers on high percentages of the 'take' make us wary of a contingency fee system. However, these elements are not present in the UK and there are commercial advantages in some form of conditional fee system over our present system, particularly in some legal aid cases. There is no reason why it should not be discussed.

From December 1993 new Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in the US require pretrial disclosure of expert evidence by written reports rather than oral deposition. One of the disclosures required is the "compensation to be paid to the expert for his study and testimony". Eventually this may come in here.

Richard Freeman

Deputy chairman

The Academy of Experts

London WC2