September 22, 2020

By Marc A. Garza, P.I.

        An experienced attorney knows that hiring a Private Investigator ("PI") can be essential in gathering evidence necessary to make a winning case. In fact, most successful law firms form a relationship with a reliable licensed investigator. Some law firms even maintain an investigative staff to conduct further research on their files and subjects.


        Some attorneys and their clients often worry that bringing in an investigator can lead to higher costs.  In many cases, the opposite is true.  For example, in civil litigation cases, an early start to the legal investigation may uncover evidence that will lead to an early settlement; saving time and money.


        Often attorneys hire a PI to focus their attention on the legal aspects of the case while the Investigator handles the fieldwork, locate and interview witnesses, conduct background investigations, and obtain evidence.  For example, PI’s can gather information necessary for cross-examination during trial. With a good investigator, a case can be promptly processed, all while saving the firm time, money, and, perhaps most importantly, revealing any unpleasant surprises that may have been previously unknown.


        The best way to select an investigator in California, is to ask trusted colleagues for referrals. Another source for potential investigators is the California Association of Licensed Investigators (“CALI”).


        Once the attorney has gathered the names of potential investigators, a critical step is to inquire about, and check on the investigator’s current license status; and whether any disciplinary actions have been taken against the investigator. This information can be found on the California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (“BSIS”) under the “Verify License” section.


        Although not a requirement in California to obtain a private investigator’s license, a professional investigator should maintain liability insurance for their agency. Just ask for a Certificate of Insurance (COI) which outlines the coverage and limits.  


        The next step an attorney should take in selecting a PI should be to determine whether the investigator has adequate experience and is skilled in the type of matter and services that he or she will be required to perform. For instance, an investigator experienced solely in surveillance may not be the best candidate for premises negligence investigations, and vice versa. Once compensation and hourly fees of the investigator have been discussed, the investigator should be requested to provide an estimated budget for his or her services.


        Once the investigator has begun the  assignment, the attorney should request, and the investigator should provide, regular communications and updates (oral and/or written) as to what steps the investigator has taken, what results, if any, have been achieved, whether it appears additional tasks and/or costs will be necessary to complete the assignment, and if the investigator will be able to stay on budget and meet all deadlines, if any, relating to the assignment.




        A trusted investigator can be an asset for your law practice. Having access to investigative services, allows you to focus on the critical parts of your legal cases, and shows your clients that you have a complete team available for their legal needs.