There are many things to consider when a law firm is hiring a private investigator.
Below is a guide to some best practices.
Licensed and Insured
In the United States, 43 of the 50 states have statewide licensing requirements for private investigators/private detectives.
As of June 2011, there are no licensing requirements in Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, South Dakota or Wyoming; Alabama and Alaska have requirements in certain cities.
Prior to commencing an assignment, the law firm should request proof of liability insurance to protect the firm in case something does go wrong.
Communicate Your Needs
It is critical to communicate to the private investigator as much information as possible from the outset, no matter how minute the details may be.
It is also important for the law firm to understand what information is potentially attainable and what may not be, within the confines of the law.
Subject Matter Expertise
The private investigator should have subject matter expertise relating to the situation at hand.
If the investigation calls for surveillance, finding a witness, intelligence gathering, due diligence investigation, comprehensive background investigation, asset investigation or an expert witness background investigation, a private investigator should be able to provide the law firm with examples of previous work done on similar matters.
Establish a Budget and Deliverables
The private investigator should prepare a descriptive agenda of your objectives and what efforts the investigative firm will make to accomplish those goals.
The investigation should be conducted in stages, with deliverables provided upon completion of each stage, so the law firm can have a measuring stick to gauge the progress of the assignment.
Included in the engagement letter should be an indemnity agreement in case the private investigator engages in professional misconduct or violates the law.
Additionally, the scope of the work, the agreed-upon budget, any agreed-upon retainer agreement and a termination clause should be included in the engagement letter.
Documentation of the parameters in an engagement letter can alleviate future disputes over objectives, timing and fees.