When your client insists on being his own investigator, what do you tell him?
When you speak of lawyers there an adage, “Anyone who represents himself has a fool for a client.” In the medical arena, it’s “a physician who treats himself has a fool for
patient”. It works the same for an investigator.
Being an investigator is not just taking a 2-week course and having a background check processed. I’ve been conducting various types of investigative work or associated with investigative agencies for over 45 years. I learn something new on every case. I also have people calling me asking for jobs and their sole qualification is “I’m really an inquisitive person and I like mysteries”. I guess I do too, but that’s not going to cut it when clients are relying on you. It’s probably not all that hard, but you have to be diligent and work hard at it. I’ve been described as one of the top income-producing investigators in the US over the last few years. I’ve cut down on my clientele but rest assured, making a good income and having good results isn’t easy. It takes working your tail off and making it look easy.
To be good at this you have to be tenacious. You have to be diligent. You have to communicate. You have to present yourself well. You have to write a detailed and comprehensive report. There’s a lot of people that call themselves investigators but they really don’t have a clue. Most ‘investigators that are licensed are retired cops who decided that, after retirement, I’ll hang out a shingle and make a million. Most sit at home waiting for the ‘big phone call to come in’. You can’t be just average to make it in this profession. It’s for that reason that clients just don’t know what they are getting into.
Needless to say, a client working as his own investigator is about to fail. Not only are they ‘interested parties’ but for that very reason, they can’t be considered unbiased in the eyes of a court.
Unless they have a technical knowledge of how to gather evidence they are in danger of spoiling their case. Having technical insight and knowledge about how to operate the right camera in the right environment is going to make a significant difference. What about validating information that they find on the internet? Of course, we all know that if it’s on the internet it’s true.
Interviewing witnesses is not just asking a question and getting a response. It’s understanding why the response is what it is. It’s knowing the right question to ask so that the response is not tainted or slanted in nature. Interviewing witnesses or complaining parties is not just an issue of asking direct questions, it’s also knowing how to challenge the witness so get the correct information yet not offending them and having them clam up. Cross-examining a reluctant witness takes finesse and knowledge, not just something learned from a tv show. There are exceptions but generally, there are no do-overs when talking to a complainant when you represent the accused.
Most people understand the reason a professional investigator needs to be hired just like why you hire a good attorney. On that same token, most people and most attorneys have no clue what the value is in hiring a good private investigator. Look at some of the other articles in this blog and you will find out how to identify and hire the right investigator.
For those that think they can do a better job, I (obviously) have a differing opinion. You wouldn’t have a first-year medical student work on a compound fracture of your arm; you would go to an experienced surgeon. Don’t try conducting your own investigation. You may find that you have placed your case in an unrecoverable position.
When your client insists on doing his own investigative work try to dissuade them. It’s probably not going to happen, but you owe it to your client to provide the best guidance available. If you don’t try to educate him you may find yourself in a position where the client files a complaint against you because you didn’t guide him properly and inform him of all the problem areas.
There’s truth to another adage: “We are our own worst enemies.” And generally, those that try to be their own investigator proves the adage correct.