It can be. Especially in medical malpractice cases, the family doctor or patient treatment specialist for the potential plaintiff client can be an invaluable expert.
"Normal" is a difficult standard when we do not know that kind of case or the issue involved. If you are seeking to have an attorney work your case on a contingency basis, it is not uncommon for good attorneys to do a great deal of investigation into the merits of a case before deciding to spend hundreds or even thousands of hours on a case and many tens of thousands of dollars of costs on that same case. If there is a threshold issue that would require expert testimony to determine the possibility of success, it is not only "normal" but a great idea for you and the attorney to get preliminary expert advice. You may find that the expert will say you have no case. That will save you much time, money and emotion invested in a case that would be eventually lost.
Good luck to you.
This answer should not be construed to create any attorney-client relationship. Such a relationship can be formed only through the mutual execution of an attorney-client agreement. The answer given is based on the extremely limited facts provided and the proper course of action might change significantly with the introduction of other facts. All who read this answer should not rely on the answer to govern their conduct. Please seek the advice of competent counsel after disclosing all facts to that attorney. This answer is intended for California residents only. The answering party is only licensed to practice in the State of California.
Depending upon the nature of the claim, yes it is normal for an expert to be involved early in the case.
This response does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and I. I am not your lawyer and I am not representing you in the underlying issue stated in your question. The response I have offered is not intended to be relied upon, you should seek out an attorney to assist in this matter.
My practice in a case requiring an expert is to have my expert on board with an opinion before I agree to take the case. In the long run this saves both my client and myself time and money. We know right from the start where we stand with our expert's opinion. However, I do not usually ask my client to supply the expert and I tend not to work with experts I am not familiar with.
To answer your question: No, it is not out of the ordinary to have an expert review a case and express an opinion prior to the attorney agreeing to take the case. I recommend that be done before a case is commenced.
Further, it is not unusual for the attorney to have you, the client, pay for the expert's time if the attorney has not agreed to take the case. Nonetheless, it seems a bit odd if the attorney is asking you to go out and find your own expert. But, I am not apprised of the facts of your situation and would need more information to give you a comprehensive opinion.
It is not abnormal for the attorney to request the client advance expert costs. Also, in evaluating the merits of a case it would not be beyond the realm of normal for an attorney to ask an expert to review the case before filing suit, or early on in the case. Especially if the case involves issues that require an expert opinion that a lawyer may not be qualified to answer.
This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship between Jassim & Associates or any of its attorneys. We are not your attorney unless we both sign a written contract that describes our relationship and terms, the scope of our representation, and terms of payment for representation. Any information provided to you here should not be construed as legal advice, and an in detail review of the facts of your matter would likely affect any information provided. There could be deadlines to act in any case, after which your legal rights could be lost forever. You should contact an attorney licensed in your state immediately to be sure your rights are protected.