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“Learn how first becoming a consulting engineer will make your testimony creditable as a forensic engineer.”

By John D. Gaskell, Retired Consulting Engineer

Author of “The Complete Guide to FORENSIC ENGINEERING

Forensic engineering is defined by the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE) as “the application of the art and science of engineering in matters which are in, or may possibly relate to, the jurisprudence system, inclusive of alternative dispute resolution.”


First becoming a consulting engineer, will give you varied experience in your engineering discipline and help to make your testimony creditable as a forensic engineer.

A consulting engineer is an individual who, because of training in one or more engineering specialties, are licensed professional engineers in private practice. They serve private and public clients in ways ranging from brief consultations to complete design and coordination of projects. They are often the technical liaison between architects, process specialists, contractors, suppliers and the client. A consulting engineer can provide general consultation, feasibility reports, design, cost estimates, rate studies, project development, patent assistance, and preparation of environmental impact statements.


  • Interesting Work – Each project is unique with specific requirements, existing conditions, options, and cost constraints.
  • Participation in all aspects – As a consulting engineer, you create (your engineering specialty of) a project from the study through design, approvals, bidding, shop drawings, clarifications, construction observations, and the final “punch list.” You actually see the project go from a blank sheet of paper to a constructed, one of a kind project that you can see and touch.
  • Not stuck behind a desk – Some of your day as a consulting engineer you will be made up of meetings with clients, vendors, colleagues, utility companies, contractors, and others, field investigations, and job site observations.


  • You are in an adversarial position as a consulting engineer – Your oversight of a project is to make sure that the owner gets the equivalent of what you specified. The contractor typically wants you to accept an inferior product, your client expects you to protect the building owner’s interest, and the owner often wants better than what you specified.
  • The Construction Industry is “cyclical” – If you’re good at your job, you will usually be working. But if a recession is too deep or lasts too long, you may find yourself unemployed.
  • Deadline Pressure – Deadlines are constantly changing and often there are multiple projects pressing you for attention. Overtime and sorting out the top priorities can be stressful.
  • Profitably Pressure – Everyone in business is driven by a profit motive, even consulting engineering firms. No matter how good that you are at your job, if you can’t make a profit for the company, you will not last.
  • Too Much Work – Consulting engineering firms are reluctant to turn down projects because they can never tell when current projects will be delayed and they may have spent a year or more waiting for a project that suddenly gets the go-ahead. That creates more stress for you.
  • Too Little Work – Conversely, too little work is even more stressful; it almost never seems like the work load is steady.
  • You’re the “bad guy” – During construction, the owner sees you occasionally but usually sees the contractor every day, and friendships are formed. Before you know it, in protecting the owner’s interest, you are being too hard on his friend.

Litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable. If what is involved interests you, I recommend adding “Forensic Engineering” to your practice as a consulting engineer.

Get Jack’s new book: The “Complete Guide” to FORENSIC ENGINEERING to learn the details. Also, the largest chapter in his book: The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING covers the “highlights” of Forensic Engineering. Visit to find out more.

Learn how to be a forensic engineer. Learn how to be a forensic expert witness. How to be an engineering expert witness. How to obtain training as a forensic engineer. How to obtain training as an engineering expert witness.