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Interview with CEO Michael Talve and Lawdragon on New Brand and Software Tool

Michael Talve, founder and CEO of Expert Institute, is steering his company into 2020 with a fresh stance. Talve, who has led the New York-based firm in providing custom expert recruiting to law firm clients for close to a decade, has recently unveiled a newly redesigned website and a nearly new name – adopting Expert Institute over their previous moniker, The Expert Institute.

Armed with their new aesthetic and just-announced release of Expert Institute’s first software solution, Talve also stands poised to further the company’s status as the leading full-service legal consultancy. “Expert Institute’s distinct advantage is our technology,” says Talve, whose leadership has consistently pointed the company towards data-driven, tech-forward growth. This is most evident in the upcoming release of Expert iQ, a proprietary expert management platform that enables attorneys to manage their expert witness casework, schedule conference calls, and communicate directly with experts. Under Talve’s guiding eye, Expert Institute sits in an exciting position to lead the industry towards an algorithmic, high-touch future of expert consultation.


Lawdragon: Can you describe the types of services you provide within the legal industry and to whom?

Michael Talve: Expert Institute provides law firms with three core services. First, we use proprietary matching algorithms and conduct custom outreach to pair litigators with the best expert witnesses for every case. Second, our in-house physicians conduct medical record reviews to screen potential cases for merit, determine liability, and help attorneys prepare for trial. Third, we provide research reports on opposing experts.

LD: What are some aspects of this work that you find professionally satisfying?

MT: We’re helping our clients make smarter business decisions and, in turn, realize better outcomes for their clients. The constantly evolving legal landscape keeps our work interesting despite any recurring case matter we may see day to day.

LD: Are there any trends you see in your area of expert consulting that are keeping you busy these days?

MT: Increasingly, law firms are coming to Expert Institute much earlier in the litigation process than ever before. They’re looking to quickly assess the merit of a new case and be able to make an informed decision on how to proceed. Our clients value immediate access to the subject matter expertise – this type of information is a scarce resource but it can make the difference in a firm saving massive amounts of time and money.

LD: As an innovator in the legal industry, what do you see as your company’s greatest asset to help your clients advance their businesses?

MT: It’s very simple: We use data and information to identify the best-qualified subject matter experts in all industries. When we let our technology spin, the results are irrefutable.

Our next exciting foray as a technology-first company is Expert iQ, our expert management portal. With iQ, firms can submit case requests, access their entire case history, schedule conference calls with experts, and receive real-time updates from our team.

To this point, we also sought to develop our new branding to reflect our position as this integral resource for our clients. The legal industry can be perceived as a traditional space but our new look and feel carries the air of a younger, more disruptive business. We want to remain a trusted partner to the legal industry but with the distinction that we are leveraging the very best in cutting edge data and technology to a legacy industry.

LD: What would you consider the most productive aspect of working with a consultative expert service such as Expert Institute?

MT: Our clients are trial lawyers who can attest to the value and scarcity of time and information. At Expert Institute, our mission is to take the exhaustive expert witness search process off their already full plates. It would be unrealistic for a trial lawyer to go out and learn everything there is to know about diagnosing appendicitis, for example. But we can connect them to a 25+ year director of a busy emergency room who has diagnosed appendicitis thousands of times, instructed residents, conducted studies, and written literature on the topic. When trial lawyers get to engage with Expert Institute and experience how powerful our service can be, they recognize how inefficient their previous methods of searching for experts have been.

LD: There are many high-quality referral services out there. What do you try to “sell” about your firm to potential clients – how is it unique?

MT: We resist being categorized as a traditional “referral service.” We don’t just refer our clients to any expert that advertises online. Expert Institute’s distinct advantage is our technology and we’re unique in that our services customize data, consultations, insights, and expert connections to help attorneys build the strongest possible cases.

LD: Can you describe a recent matter that you’ve handled?

MT: We’ve become well acquainted with the nuances of the opioid crisis. Our team has aided trial lawyers as they’ve engaged with all facets of the industry from clinical trials and marketing, to distribution and prescription metrics. It’s been humbling to have a wide view of the large scale litigation that’s been rocking front page news for the past several years.

LD: What is the most rewarding aspect of this casework for you?

MT: I don’t know that there’s a person in America today who hasn’t been touched by this epidemic in some way. The severity of this epidemic really raises the stakes for us to source the perfect expert witness in a scenario that leaves very little margin for error. It’s gratifying to see the work of our firm make a tangible impact on policy and regulations. We’re eager to contribute to positive change and see these cases result in more responsible conduct by large pharmaceutical companies and their constituents.

LD: Did any experience from your undergraduate work encourage you to start your own business?

MT: I’ve been passionate about entrepreneurship even before the undergraduate level. In junior high, I was working at a car dealership after school alongside the mechanics and service crew members. Then in high school, I started organizing small ski trips for my classmates. I didn’t even have a driver’s license yet, but I was renting the coach bus, finding a deal for lift tickets, ski rentals, and accommodations at mountains in Vermont. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds so early on.

LD: Was there a course or professor that impacted your career?

MT: There are too many phenomenal professors to list from my time at Babson College, but one who comes to mind is a gentleman named Leonard Green. He runs a successful accounting firm and is an occasional business investor. But more than anything, Len encouraged my classmates and me to be ourselves. He taught us that when running a company, it’s paramount to be genuine, be authentic, and do what’s right. These are principles by which I live and breathe, so I am pleased to acknowledge the impression he made on me.

LD: What advice do you have now for current students or young professionals who wish to have a similar type of career?

MT: To echo Len: be yourself, don’t compromise on integrity or morals, and be prepared to work your butt off. I agree with half of the adage “Find your passion because it won’t feel like work”. It’s important to find something you’re passionate about, but be prepared to put in the work. I’m not sure Expert Institute would have been successful without some serious legwork to pursue our passions.

LD: How has your profession changed since the early part of your career?

MT: When I first started the business, I was the receptionist, the salesman, the researcher, the accountant, the HR manager, the recruiter, etc. Nowadays, there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to get involved in each aspect of the business the way I once did.

Running a business is an iterative process. It’s a constant state of flux, whether we’re hiring new members, developing new products, or expanding our locations. As CEO, I’ve learned to be a better coach, and luckily for me, I have an incredible team of bright, devoted, and loyal individuals to work alongside, making my job a pleasure. I always envisioned myself working in an exciting and dynamic environment like the one we’re building, so no question about it, my role as CEO of Expert Institute checks that box.

LD: Is there a certain client or case that remains memorable for you?

MT: A few years back we consulted on a medical malpractice case in which a birth injury resulted in a child requiring a lifetime of expensive and full-time care. After the insurance carrier made an offensively low settlement offer, I felt adamant that this family deserved a certain level of medical treatment and accommodations. Our team worked tirelessly to provide experts across the fields of obstetrics, maternal fetal medicine, neonatology, labor and delivery nursing, life care planning, and pediatric neurology. So when the case reached a $100-million-plus verdict, I was extremely proud of the hard work our team put into assisting this well-deserved win.

LD: How would you describe your style as a legal service provider?

MT: We view ourselves as partners in the truest sense. Our clients should feel like we are a part of their team and that we’re committed to their success. Service is everything: we answer calls and respond to emails instantaneously and always with a smile. This standard of service is what sets us apart in the eyes of our clients, who are some of the most prestigious litigators in the entire country.

LD: How have management challenges changed since the start of your career?

MT: Management responsibilities for me have evolved a great deal over the last several years. Presently, I spend the vast majority of my time working with our leadership team and thinking strategically about our business priorities. We have assembled a fine group of department heads and executives. Our leadership team includes some of the best and brightest individuals in the legal technology space.

We also hired Bill Sherman as President & COO in 2019. Bill joined us from IPREO, a company that he helped lead to a $1.8 billion acquisition by IHS Markit, after establishing itself as a true market leader in the financial services technology, data, and analytics space. Bill affords me operational leverage and helps substantially with daily business execution.

LD: What do you do for fun outside the office?

MT: My wife and I have two small children so spending time with my family is my number one priority when I’m not in the office. The kids come to the office often and we also take full advantage of NYC. It’s an incredible place to work and live – we’re very blessed to be based here.

LD: Tell us about a law-related book you read and enjoyed recently.

MT: The last book I read and couldn’t put down was “Acts of Omission” by James Bostwick, a prominent trial lawyer based in San Francisco, California. The book is loosely based on some of his real-life trials and tribulations. It’s a great read that can be enjoyed by new and experienced lawyers, alike.

LD: If you weren’t in your current job, what would you be doing now?

MT: I love snowboarding and playing tennis. If I could figure out a way to get paid for doing either of those two things I would be a happy man. In the meantime, I won’t quit my day job!

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