When you are setting up your law practice, there are many things on your checklist that you have to take care of, but you probably never thought that retaining a private investigator would be one of them. Thanks to their portrayal in the media, investigative professionals often enjoy a poor reputation. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, as any P.I. who behaved as unscrupulously as their typical television counterpart would quickly find themselves behind bars. Real life P.I.s can be a lawyer’s best friend on a tough case.
Here are seven big ways that a private investigator can help your practice:
1. Locating witnesses
When it comes time to draft your witness list, it is not always easy to locate known witnesses, let alone any additional witnesses that may have observed events but were not interviewed by police. A private investigator can interview known witnesses and perform valuable legwork in locating ones that are unknown or have relocated since the events in question. They can also act as a process server, serving reluctant witnesses or identifying unknown persons who witnesses bring up during interviews.
2. Finding assets
Whether it is stolen property or undiscovered material evidence, there is always something missing that could improve your case. While a private investigator cannot go as in-depth as a forensic accountant or a representative for law enforcement, they may be able to locate missing property, such as vehicles or the location of accounts or holdings that bear further scrutiny. This can be invaluable in personal civil proceedings and corporate lawsuits.
Whether you are trying to get your own invoice paid or attempting to enforce a judgment that one of your clients has been awarded, your investigator can be most useful. Past clients may plead poverty or just leave town instead of paying you, and targets of a judgment may use any number of tactics to conceal seizable assets. While collection agencies and tax write-offs are common ways of dealing with these problems when all else fails, it is always preferable to actually get paid and see your clients compensated justly.
While lawyers undoubtedly have supreme research skills and you may have paralegal professionals who can also help in this arena, both are specialized in the research of legal esoterica. When it comes to more practical forms of research, such as looking into the background of a rival attorney or determining the local reputation of a witness, a private investigator may have much more expertise.
5. Jury selection
While the ultimate choice of juror will fall upon you, there are many factors that may determine whether you wish to have an individual decide the fate of your client. These factors can be discovered by your investigator and can often be gleaned from publicly available records or minimal observation. For example, an investigator can determine whether a juror really resides at the address that they claim on their summons or if it is just a friend’s house and they are living on the streets. Little details can have a huge impact on whether they are an appropriate choice for jury duty.
6. Recovery of electronic evidence
Collecting electronic evidence such as emails and databases can be tricky, and some subjects breathe easy when they believe they have deleted these items. However, electronic files are rarely deleted in a way that makes them completely unrecoverable, and private investigators are skilled in analyzing, cataloging, and recovering files from areas where most individuals wouldn’t even think of looking. Recovery of these items can make your court case much easier.
7.Preparing for testimony
When you are prepping to examine or cross-examine, knowledge of the character of the witness in question can be priceless. A private investigator may be able to put together a dossier regarding the background of the individual, giving you the edge you might need to ask the right questions or phrase them in such as way as to get the desired reaction.
The fact is that private investigators have a variety of skills and resources at their disposal that allows them to compliment your legal practice in innumerable ways. Having a good investigator to consult with on a case can often mean the difference between winning and losing.