Private investigators are a tremendous help to attorneys, whether these lawyers practice solo or at a large firm. Perhaps the biggest benefit of a legal investigator is how much easier this person makes an attorney’s life.
Lightening the Load that Attorneys Carry
Legal investigators take on many of the tasks that attorneys or their staff would otherwise do. Moreover, private investigators have the experience and skills to do these things better than attorneys would be able to do themselves. For example, family lawyers commonly work with investigators in divorce cases. These investigators can perform the following tasks, among others:
- Investigate allegations of child abuse
- Investigate allegations of parental drug use/alcoholism when the parent is with the children
- Look into claims of affairs or marital misconduct
- Verify the legitimacy of one spouse’s income and working hours
- Check for assets the other spouse may have hidden
This type of work is far-ranging. As another example, an asset search involves scouring various financial records, databases and filings. It may also involve talking to people and spending time on social media. It occupies hours and hours of time. Since legal investigators do this type of work routinely, they can tap into their extensive sources more quickly than lawyers could. Many investigators subscribe to databases that law firms do not, and investigators spend years cultivating human sources to help them.
Therefore, lawyers enjoy balance in their cases. They get to focus on what they do best, rather than getting bogged down in investigative work.
Helping in Diverse Areas
Legal investigators work with lawyers who practice in all kinds of areas. As touched on above, family lawyers need help with divorce cases. They also enlist investigators for prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, estate planning, child custody issues, child support issues and even will contests. With prenuptial agreements, investigators can research:
- Family histories
- Family and individual finances
- Any possibly unknown children and previous/current spouses
- Any undisclosed legal obligations
- Any undisclosed arrests or convictions
- Business assets
Attorneys who work in employment law may retain investigators for employee background checks and employee screening, and to investigate cases related to harassment, discrimination and the like. Meanwhile, an attorney working with landlords needs investigators for tenant screenings. Criminal lawyers hire legal investigators to gather pertinent records, locate witnesses, interview witnesses, obtain evidence, verify evidence and prepare evidence and exhibits for trial. Take an attorney defending a financial fraud case. A private investigator with document examination experience can expose forgeries, unmask alterations, verify the authenticity of documents and examine handwriting and ink types.
In short, it really does not matter what type of law the attorney specializes in. Investigators are a tremendous asset capable of handling all kinds of cases. That said, some types of cases do particularly benefit from private investigation: crime victim support, criminal defense, insurance claims and fraud, tort actions, custody cases, matrimonial issues, family law, probate proceeds, estate planning, employment law, housing disputes, and contracts and transactions.
Gathering Evidence that Holds Up in Court
Private investigators use effective, legal methods to gather evidence that holds up in court. For example, a criminal lawyer may need to locate a witness. This witness has potentially important testimony to offer and could have relevant evidence in his or her possession. To locate witnesses, private investigators are able to:
- Delve into public records such as death certificates, property records and court filings
- Interview people to get clues about the missing person’s whereabouts
- Find and examine digital traces such as those on social media
- Connect with various human sources nationally and internationally
Investigators do all this legally. An investigator examining a divorcing spouse’s background for hidden assets does not hack into that person’s bank accounts. Rather, investigators turn to widely available public databases. They talk with people and scour financial records to find telltale indicators of asset concealment. Investigators are methodical about how they gather evidence so it holds up in court.
Investigators act as agents of attorneys. Thus, communications among clients, investigators and/or attorneys are confidential and privileged. Investigators’ records and findings are privileged work products. Third parties cannot swoop in and benefit from that work without permission.
How Private Investigators Can Help Attorneys
Private investigators provide invaluable attorney support. They have access to an array of human and technological sources that lawyers do not, and they know how to use these sources efficiently. Investigators are well-versed in preparing reports about their findings, and they attest to the reports’ authenticity.
Investigators keep on top of new trends, laws, services and technologies. They hail from all types of backgrounds such as investigative journalism, police work, finance, private security and government. This practical-real world experience makes them better investigators. It’s one reason they have a huge network of human sources. Investigators provide litigation support in areas such as divorce, custodial interference, criminal defense, landlord disputes and personal injury.