The “highly recommended” Roula Harfouche is singled out by market sources as “a very experienced expert who is able to explain complex matters easily”.
Roula Harfouche is a Partner with HKA in London. She specialises in the assessment of damages and complex valuation issues in litigation and international arbitration contexts. She is experienced in matters involving breaches of contract, investment
treaty claims, transaction-related disputes, shareholder/JV disputes, and intellectual property infringements.
She has been valuing companies, listed and unlisted securities, and intellectual property rights in commercial and contentious contexts since 2000, and has provided valuation or damages assessment services in more than 90 disputes.
What inspired you to pursue a career as an expert witness?
It was mainly the mix of intellectual rigour and showmanship that I observed in more senior expert witnesses with whom I worked that inspired me to see if I was up to the challenge. Being an expert witness is very difficult, in particular if you take your duty to the tribunal/court seriously, and therefore have to resist pressure from your client and their counsel as well as sustain attacks from the opposing side’s counsel.
What do clients look for in an effective expert witness?
Clients who are well-advised by their counsel look for an expert who is both knowledgeable and convincing so as to maximise their chances of obtaining a good award from the tribunal/court. These are the clients and counsel I work with and would like to continue working with, as I am convinced that they maximise their chances of obtaining the best and fairest results. Clients who have a hopeless case or are ill-advised by their counsel unfortunately tend to look for an expert who will support maximum or minimum damages, depending on whether the clients are claimant or respondent, and who are ready to say virtually anything with conviction. I am not sure to what extent the second route still works, but sadly I still see it used.
What effect does a more interventionalist approach from tribunals have on independent expert work?
In my experience, when the tribunal is more prepared and hands on, this has led to faster and better use of expert witnesses both before and during hearings. The tribunal can zoom in on the relevant issues before the hearing, and can stop counsel wasting time on irrelevant or peripheral issues during cross-examinations. The tribunal can also ask for a meeting of experts and a joint statement of experts setting out areas of agreement and disagreement, which then helps better focus the hearing. Finally, the tribunal can ask for a hot tubbing session and direct that session themselves by asking the experts specific questions aimed at truly understanding why the experts differ to allow the tribunal to make a fully-informed decision rather than spend time watching counsel trying to discredit the experts.
How do you coordinate on cases when working alongside experts with other areas of expertise?
It can be challenging to have different experts on a case, in particular for the damages expert who has to rely on the opinions of other experts and bring it all together in their calculation of damages. In my experience, if the other experts are in your own firm, for example technical/engineering experts and damages experts as we have at HKA, then coordination is much easier. If the technical or market expert is external, then making clear who is responsible for checking that expert’s findings, i.e. counsel or the damages experts, will help avoid duplication of efforts or inconsistencies/errors. In my experience, when the damages expert regularly reviews and discusses the technical or market expert’s findings, and can make corrections/suggestions for changes, together with counsel if needed, this leads to better and more convincing reports.