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.