Lawyer Private Investigator

For a lawyer to build a strong relationship with a private investigator, there needs to be an honest, open dialogue about things such as chances of success, billing arrangements and availability.

But there are certain things that a lawyer never wants to hear come out of a private investigator’s mouth.

“I guarantee …”

Making any absolute guarantees about anything in the investigative business is simply in poor taste and a poor business practice. As with most things, there are so many variables and factors that are out of an investigator’s control. Too many to even count.

Instead of guarantees, an investigator would be better advised to provide an honest assessment of the case along with reasonable odds of success to allow the lawyer to make a better determination of where he or she should devote time and resources.

Of course, things don’t always go as planned, and it’s important to communicate any developments (good or bad) to avoid any nasty surprises.

“I can get it for you, but I can’t tell you where I got the information.”

For a lawyer, obtaining information that may have come from sources that are not “aboveboard” may not only be useless in a court of law, but it also may open the lawyer up to liability. If acting under the lawyer’s direction an investigator obtained information through illegal means, it may open the lawyer up to potential liability issues (think bank records and telephone records).

One may argue that critical information obtained through illicit means (bribes, illegal sources, etc.) can still be valuable, even if it can’t be used in a court of law. While that may be true, it certainly brings up ethical issues.

“I’m too busy.”

We all lead busy lives. Lawyers and Investigators have to juggle multiple clients, matters and deadlines at the same time. But that’s never an excuse for an investigator to ignore an attorney or to say that you don’t have time for a matter. Nobody ever wants to hear that he or she is not a priority.

A better way to address the situation is to work out a schedule that is beneficial to everyone. And while everyone always needs everything “as soon as possible,” the reality is that the truth is usually far from that.

“I can’t tell you how much this is going to cost.”

Nobody ever wants to hear that something requires an open-ended budget. Imagine having your taxes done by your accountant every year only to find out at the end how much they cost you.

While there are numerous cases where the ultimate cost of something really is not clear, it’s important to establish a baseline for a budget or a range. And it’s critical for both parties to be totally abreast of the billing situation. While nobody likes being billed thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, it’s worse to be surprised about being billed tens of thousands of dollars when you thought it was going to be thousands of dollars.

“I don’t think you have a chance on this.”

I’ve worked on a number of cases over the years in which the law firm that I was working for was involved in a case where it was a massive mountain to climb to ultimately have success on the case. When I mean massive, I mean like Mt. Everest, times two.

Especially when it comes to the white-collar criminal defense area. It’s just the reality of things when the conviction rate is over 95 percent. It’s one thing to think that the case does not have a chance, but it’s another thing to say it.

An investigator’s job is to serve the client as best he or she can, regardless of what the investigator thinks the outcome is going to be. Besides, not being on board with your client is a potential recipe for a disastrous outcome, which helps no one.

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3 replies
  1. Jimmy
    Jimmy says:

    I love the 5 things that lawyer don’t like to hear the only thing is some lawyer are not so ethical and I’m not comfortable giving any lawyer where I get my information or contact and so forth.
    The problem is many lawyer are not as honest as you wish they were and giving them where you get the info is like giving them the keys of our trade secrets.

    If a judge wish to see how or the information were obtained legally that’s fine but giving or handing out our skills set is putting a PI, at risk to not having a case next time because the lawyer would simply have his staff do the work or hire someone knowing the trade secrets will give him an edge on how to pay you while they can charge at will with the clients.

    Not every case is about logging on and pressing a button. Lexis Nexis is a tool used by several attorneys but I like to get everything I can on whatever the case might be and my last case was about a divorce and hidden assets, when I gave the lawyer the results that I had his head was spinning because I had found how, who and how everything was and this was a big game changer for his client who was supposed to have $100.000.00 to we’ll over $750.000.00.

    How I got it was not pressing a few button on a Dada provider and that’s what is a trade secret knowing how to get things done legally while keeping a good name.

    I trust the lawyers just as much as I would trust my accountant to change the engine on my car.

    Great lawyer that appreciate hard work and pay what is owe on time without complaint is rare.

    So I hand pick lawyers because I have high ethics and want my name to be without any blemish no matter what the outcome of the case is.

    At the end of the day PI’s. are not the judge or jury we can only bring evidence and it’s up to the lawyer to make a great case with the findings, facts and evidence that are provided to him.

    PS. I know most people do not agree with my answers but it would be like asking to reveal a (C.I.) names and location.

    My 5 cents.


  2. David Childe
    David Childe says:

    Helpful, common-sense suggestions. For what it’s worth, I do offer a guarantee on one item: Locates, as long as the person is in my metro area. There is little excuse for me not to find someone who is lurking somewhere in an area I know well and have plenty of contacts in. This works in Memphis, because of its relatively small population. It may not work in your area, though, Brian!

    I can particularly relate to your point about information origins. The attorney must know that all information is obtained legally and ethically. We act as his agent and are subject to the same ethical principles he is.

    I am reluctant to use these banking and employment information brokers for precisely the reason above: namely, that they don’t give you a clue as to how they get the information. They probably get it legally, yet I don’t know for sure. I have an increasingly sneaking suspicion that they file myriad open records requests with State Dept’s of Labor. If so, then they are operating legally. Yet I can do this myself and not charge the client nearly what they do. I will be looking into this matter further. What do you think about sources for employment locates?

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