An Overview of Attorney-Investigator Relationships, PART 1



Litigation Advantage

It is very common for Private Investigators to work with attorneys of all legal specialties.   There are thousands of Attorney-Investigator working relationships aimed at resolving cases.  Attorneys work with Investigators on many different types of cases, from the simple to the complex. The relationship between a Private Investigator and Attorney is often times clear but sometimes it is not.  In the public sector there is a clear distinction between the DOJ and the FBI and in the Criminal Law sector the Investigator and Attorney tend to work in a collegial fashion. However, in the Civil Law arena assignments and working relationships are not always clearly defined.  In some cases the Attorney may utilize an Investigator “in house” as part of their legal staff and instruct them similar to a Paralegal or Legal Assistant.  Yet, this is counterproductive when outsourcing to an experienced Private Investigator. 

Attorneys who through their study and work have developed solid research skills and a familiarity with the basics of investigations may feel that they can manage the means and methods of an Investigators work. In many cases, however, this level of oversight of a seasoned Private Investigator is unnecessary and detrimental to a successful case outcome.  Although the attorney may have good instincts and ideas on how to investigate a claim or speak to an individual, managing an Investigator’s methodology can often times hinder the Investigator’s ability to fulfill the objectives and produce the best possible result.

Typically, the most called upon Private Investigators are highly skilled and have years of hands on experience perfecting their methodologies.  Private Investigators like Attorneys are professionals who have developed special skills honing their craft and area of expertise to a level that an Attorney cannot individually perform or delegate to their staff.  Attorneys hiring Private Investigators for their special skillset should be prepared to provide the Investigator with any information required by the Investigator.  It is critical that the Investigator gets up to speed on particular legal issues, certain sets of facts, and other case details that are vital to the investigator’s overall success.  

Sometimes the Attorney may not have all the information or may question the Investigator’s need to know certain details.  If the relationship is a healthy one, there is no harm with the Attorney questioning an Investigator’s request for information or visa versa.  Successful Attorney-Investigator relationships invite open conversations about case obstacles, parameters, and strategy. Whereas dysfunctional ones lack open communication and therefore the necessary coordination to properly implement a cohesive investigation strategy, such that the relationship is best ended sooner rather than later. 

The Investigator’s methodology is an alchemy of instinct, experience, intellect, skills and background that requires a certain degree of autonomy to be effective.  Of course, Attorneys need to have control of their cases but just as they delegate certain work to expert witnesses, analysts and other professionals it is important that they show the same level of deference as they would to the former.  Deference does not mean treating the Investigator with kit gloves or putting up with an Investigator’s lack of integrity or professionalism but knowing that the successful Attorney-Investigator working relationship is based on mutual respect and collegiality.