Expert Witness Credentials: Making Sense of the Alphabet Soup

When engaging an expert witness to assist you at trial, it is important to ensure that your expert has the necessary training, experience, licensure, and credentials to appropriately inform and educate the trier(s) of fact. We are often asked to explain our professional credentials both formally in deposition or trial, and informally when talking with those who might be seeking our help with vocational rehabilitation or life care planning assistance. In general, credentials, or the letters that follow an expert’s name fall into three main categories: Education, Licensure, and Certification.

Educational attainment or a person’s highest educational degree is usually expressed for achievement above the bachelor’s level. The Ph.D. is technically a doctorate of philosophy in a given field. Both Drs. Stokes (Doctor of Counselor Education) and Wolfson (Doctor of Psychology) have completed Master’s degrees and written and defended doctoral research dissertations in their respective fields. These are NOT medical degrees, and our experts do not offer medical opinions. Degrees such as: M.S. (master of science), M.Ed. (master of education), M.H.S. (master of health science), M.S.W. (master of social work) are commonly listed after the name and may appear for experts in our field. In the case of Life Care Planning, it is possible to see some R.N’s (registered nurse) or even M.D.s.

Licensure is the next most important credential, and refers to the expert’s legal authority to practice their occupation in a given state. For rehabilitation counselors, the L.R.C. (Licensed Rehabilitation Counselor) designation indicates that we have passed the state licensure examination and met minimum educational requirements to practice. This licensure also implies our successful maintenance of continuing education requirements. Licensure in rehabilitation serves to protect the consumer against shoddy or potentially harmful treatment. L.P.C. (Licensed Professional Counselor) is the state licensure for Master’s level clinicians to practice mental health counseling in Louisiana.

Certification is a voluntary or optional designation indicating that experts have met minimum requirements by certifying bodies. The C.L.C.P (Certified Life Care Planner) designation is earned when practitioners complete the required 120 hours of post-graduate training in Life Care Planning and successfully pass the certification examination. This certification is no indication of a practitioner’s actual skill or experience in the field, just that they have met those minimum requirements. The C.R.C. (Certified Rehabilitation Counselor) is the vocational rehabilitation equivalent of the C.L.C.P, and the C.C.M. (Certified Case Manager), is earned by individuals who work in case management.

It is not the collection of letters behind an expert’s name that makes them effective, however choosing an expert with the right credentials assists in establishing a base level of forensic credibility. The expert’s ability to analyze complex information, offer clearly written defensible opinions and then explain those opinions to judges and juries are the ultimate measures of our effectiveness in litigated cases. We offer complimentary consultations concerning "hypothetical matters" To strategize with one of our vocational experts at Stokes & Associates, please call David Barrett at 504-454-5009 or email dbarrett@stokes-associates.com.

Larry S. Stokes, Ph.D.
Aaron Wolfson, Ph.D.
Todd Capielano, M.Ed., LRC, CRC, LPC, CLCP
Lacy Sapp, MHS, CRC, LPC, LRC, CLCP

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