The close, symbiotic relationship between investigators and lawyers can be challenging because PIs and attorneys often have different work styles, training and professional objectives.

Approaches, Backgrounds and Goals

One difference in PIs’ and lawyers’ work styles is that many investigators work alone.  Although some attorneys also work alone, many work in cooperation with other lawyers and legal staff members.

PIs and lawyers have also experienced different types of training. Some private investigators may have very little training, such as those who work in unlicensed states, of which there are five in the U.S., including my own state of Colorado (not to say that all unlicensed PIs lack training and skills — I’ve known many investigators in my state who are ethical, professional and immensely skilled).  In contrast, some investigators have extensive backgrounds in accounting, law enforcement, computer science, even psychology. Attorneys, on the other hand, earn doctorate degrees and must pass a grueling bar exam that covers every aspect of the law.

Additionally, PIs and attorneys have different professional objectives. A PI has a vested financial interest in completing work tasks and issuing his/her invoice. Lawyers are on a different time clock, where the best resolution for the client may take months, sometimes years.

How a PI Can Nurture the Attorney-Client Relationship

I’ve worked within the criminal justice system for 30 years, the majority of that time as a criminal defense lawyer. For a decade I also co-owned a legal investigations agency, during which my wife (my business partner) and myself wrote the blog Guns, Gams and Gumshoes, which has been recognized by Ellery Queen magazine as one of the top three true-crime blogs, and has been twice noted by the American Library Association’s Booklist Online as its “Web Crush of the Week” during its annual mystery month. Guns, Gams and Gumshoes is still going strong, by the way — to check it out, click here.

In one of our blog posts on Guns, Gams and Gumshoes, we wrote how a PI can build a constructive, successful relationship with a lawyer, based on our firsthand experiences. Below are those tips:

Tip #1: PIs should be prepared, timely and succinct. Attorneys are busy people who are juggling dozens, sometimes hundreds of clients. When a PI schedules a meeting with an attorney, he/she should bring an agenda, reports and important evidence. Be on time — punctuality is a courtesy to anyone, be it an attorney-client or your other investigation clients. Don’t ramble on at meetings — be succinct and to the point. Both of you are professionals who are handling important client matters.

Tip #2Focus your investigative products. Lawyers don’t pay investigators for their opinions and speculations about what judges and juries will do — lawyers pay for facts and evidence. Make sure your investigative reports, both oral and written, scrupulously adhere to agreed-upon investigative strategies and goals defined by you and your attorney-client. For example, if an attorney requests for you to learn the color of a specific vehicle that a witness saw, focus on obtaining that evidence — don’t gather extraneous data such as the neighborhood where the observation occurred or the color of other vehicles in the area!

Tip #3: Be knowledgeable about the legal basics of what you’re investigating. When a PI works for a lawyer, the investigator should have an understanding of the legal basics in that attorney’s area of the law. For example, if a PI works for a family law attorney, the PI should understand such family law doctrines as child custody guidelines and no-fault/fault divorces (depending on the state the PI and lawyer practice in). If a PI conducts criminal defense investigations, he/she should understand the principles of criminal culpability. There are numerous ways for a PI to understand legal fundamentals, from taking a course at a community college to obtaining certification through the National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI).

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Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430
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