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Finding an Attorney to Work with as a Private Investigator


The attorney that a private investigator chooses to work with can be very telling of his or her career. Once an investigator begins a relationship with an attorney, their references and casework begin to mesh, i.e. the attorney’s work becomes investigator’s work and vice versa.

Attorney David Queen discusses the importance of finding a respectable professional in his field and how to create a solid, trustworthy relationship. Overall, this can be achieved with research, formal meetings, an astute understanding of expectations and legal capabilities within a case, a contractual agreement, and constant communication.  

"Eventually, the private investigator and the attorney are both hoping they can return to the same person time and again," Queen says, "And it has to begin, first of all, with each person feeling satisfied they are dealing with someone they can trust."

Eventually, the private investigator and the attorney are both hoping they can return to the same person time and again. And it has to begin, first of all, with each person feeling satisfied they are dealing with someone they can trust.

David Queen

A good way to start finding an attorney is by researching attorney's references, firms, and reputations. When a promising candidate arises, start a conversation – both the attorney and the private eye should highlight their specialties and legal capabilities within the relationship, and explain their expectations of each other. "You want to look for an attorney that has a caseload and a specialty that matches your skill set," Queen suggests.

Together, the investigator and the attorney should be able to complement each other’s limitations and strengths to best serve the client. Like private investigators, attorneys have specialties, too. Investigators should look for someone who has a similar resume and experience in the cases they specialize in.

The investigator may want to schedule a face-to-face meeting before agreeing to work with an attorney. A meeting can reveal a lot about a person’s professional etiquette. Take note of a few things: Was the attorney on time? Did he or she come prepared? Ask questions about his or her work, references, and be mindful of the attorney’s eloquence and presentation – you want to stand next to this person in a courtroom. Investigators can then reiterate their expectations of an attorney in person, and attorneys can clarify their requirements, as well.

Queen highlights what he expects of a private investigator:

  • Be Prompt
    Punctuality is expected for meetings, court dates, deadlines, etc. Along with working with someone trustworthy, investigators want someone they can rely on – set the tone and honor appointment times and deadlines, and the attorney will follow suit.
  • Follow Instructions
    Don’t let anything slip through the cracks. Make sure to be clear on the format and the product that will be delivered. A meticulous attention to detail will save time later on editing and revisiting case witnesses and evidence.
  • Understand the attorney-client priviledge
    Both the private investigator and the attorney are working for the client, and his or her privacy and confidentiality must be a top priority.
    Queen stresses that the attorney-private investigator relationship is strictly contractual – and the contract is drafted and catered to the needs of the client.
  • Follow file format
    When documents are given to the judge or the lawyer on the opposing side, correct format is the first step to a strong argument. As Queen describes them, “They need to be squeaky clean, and pass the test.”

Along with expectations, it is important to clearly state a private investigator's legal capabilities to the attorney. Queen notes that attorneys may ask for protected information such as bank statements, cell-phone logs and conversations, or other information that is not legally accessible by a private investigator. Have an initial conversation explaining what investigators are legally capable and comfortable doing within a case to avoid unrealistic expectations. This can also be something to draft into the contractual agreement.

It isn't worth it to be in a relationship with an attorney who is either excessively demanding or sloppy, because each one [both the investigator and attorney] has the capability of dragging the other down.

David Queen

After an investigator has found the right attorney and contracts have been signed, the investigator can begin to work with the attorney and utilize his or her legal advice and counsel. Queen explains that within the attorney-private investigator relationship, private investigators may want to be able to call the attorney and ask for legal advice when they need it. He gives an example of when an investigator is on the move and finds an opportunity to pretext a witness, he or she wants to be able to call the attorney and ask if it is legal to do so within the case. The key to a long-lasting relationship is knowing that all work will be done with honesty and integrity, and within the confines of the law.

"It isn't worth it to be in a relationship with an attorney who is either excessively demanding or sloppy," Queen stresses, "because each one [both the investigator and attorney] has the capability of dragging the other down."

Substantial research will put the investigator on the right track to finding an attorney he or she can trust and building a strong relationship. Be sure to have a formal contract, with clearly stated expectations, capabilities and responsibilities within the case, and hopefully that same contract can be revised for the next client, and the client after that. “If you find an attorney that has a good reputation, and that has a legal specialty that matches your skill set.” Queen says, “You’re probably three quarters of the way home.”


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