File Photo

Paul D. Ellner was nearing retirement from his professorship in microbiology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons when he stumbled on his second career "quite by accident." A colleague who had enlisted as an expert witness in a legal case was overwhelmed with work and passed the job on to Ellner.

"I found it very challenging, very interesting," says Ellner, who has been hired as an expert witness in more than 70 cases since his retirement from Columbia almost 14 years ago. Besides supplementing his income and keeping him active in science, expert witness work has added a new line of skills to those Ellner learned in the laboratory: a combination of psychology, theatrics, and law.

Scientific expertise is no guarantee of effective communication in the courtroom, says Ellner, who reads books and attends seminars to stay sharp on the rules for qualifying as an expert...

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