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A Day in the Life of a Legal Investigator

Posted by Writing PIs on February 10, 2010

Because some people have asked, “What’s a legal investigator?” and because in our PI agency that’s what we primarily do (legal investigations), I thought I’d break down a day in the life of a couple of legal investigators.  We have an extra dimension to our work lately because my business partner is once again studying for the bar exam (in 2 weeks). 

First, here’s the National Association of Legal Investigators’ (NALI) definition of a legal investigator: 

Legal investigators are licensed private investigators or law firm staff investigators who specialize in preparing cases for trial for attorneys. Their job is to gather information and evidence which advance legal theories to benefit the client’s case. The legal investigator must possess knowledge of statutory and case law, local rules of court, civil procedure, forensic sciences, techniques of evidence collection, and its preservation and admissibility.

Legal investigators assist attorneys by reviewing police reports and discovery materials, analyzing and photographing crime or accident scenes, interviewing parties and witnesses, performing background investigations, preparing documentary and demonstrative evidence, recommending experts, and testifying in court. Legal investigators must exhibit the highest standards or professional and ethical conduct.

Now we’ll look at yesterday in “a day in the life of a couple of legal investigators.”

4:30 a.m.: Partner is up, studying (getting the hours in before the work day starts).  Gotta hand it to him, he’s been studying at all hours while juggling other work coming into the office. Sometimes he’s up at 3:30 a.m., other times he “sleeps in” until 6 a.m.

8 a.m – 9 a.m.: Phone calls start. Reminder from a law firm that we have legal papers to serve a bank in the afternoon. New client is driving into Denver, wants to meet for coffee in the a.m.  Paralegal calls, wants to know if an elusive subject has been served yet.  Woman calls, says someone stole her truck from in front of her house. Yes, she’d left the keys in the truck, but only her best friends, a few neighbors, a business acquaintance and her family knew she always left her keys in the truck.  We suggest she discuss this with all those people first, then call us back if the truck is still missing.

11 a.m.: I’m finishing writing several reports. Partner is heading out the door to meet with the new client who’s just arrived in Denver.  It’s going to be a complex, difficult case that will require a lot of travel. We’re already scheduling the travel, where we’ll stay, the interviews, and so on.

noon: Partner’s back, had a good meeting with the new client.  Feels good about client’s character, how he comes across (important elements as we’re expecting this case to go to trial). The coffee shop they met at is one of local haunts–one of the kids who works there knows my partner is studying for the bar and drinking a lot of coffee, so he gifts us a bag of our favorite coffee beans.

Afternoon: Spent driving all over the city. Picking up discovery at one law firm, picking up legal papers at another, serving same papers to the bank, picking up a new case while visiting another law firm, checking addresses for a person we’re trying to locate.  Every time there’s a break, I sit in the car and read through police & EMT reports for another case.

4 p.m.: Home to catch up on phone calls, emails, life stuff.  Partner tells me that after we go out again (for a difficult serve), he plans to spend the rest of the evening studying for the bar exam. I do a “locate” (finding someone) for a law firm. Not easy as the person is using all kinds of addresses–trying to figure out which one is the most relevant.

5:30 p.m.: We head out for the difficult serve. It’s in a bad part of town, serving legal papers to a person who has a history of violence (we’re working on behalf of the law firm who’s representing one of the people who was beaten up by this person). Partner brings his big, black metal flashlight. And good thing he did as it came in handy.

6 p.m.: We find the person’s house. Metal fence around yard that has two overly excited dogs. Partner gets out, tries to talk to them. One turns friendly, the other has an issue with partner trying to get to the front door. Partner turns on flashlight (by now, it’s dark outside), and holds it in front of him. I’m holding my breath inside the car, watching the dog butt its head against the flashlight, growling and barking. Partner keeps walking toward the front door, which suddenly opens. There’s our guy, who has trouble controlling the more aggressive dog. This works in our favor, however, as he readily accepts the papers to get us to leave so he can corral the dog back into the house.

6:45 p.m.: Back at office. We write down our time for the day on the different cases. Partner calls attorney about mid-day interview with new client, gives verbal report. Partner begins studying again for the bar exam.


7-8 p.m.: Watching The Tudors, season two. King Henry VIII is battling with those fighting the Reformation, Anne Boleyn is realizing her days are numbered, Cromwell is driving the suppression, characters are sneaking around, spying on each other.  All that bad faith, legal wrangling, and high drama reminds me of law firms, nasty litigation, and the work of legal investigators.


8:30 p.m.: Woman calls. Found her truck. Seems a neighbor borrowed it without telling her.  We thank her for calling, wish her a good night.

One Response to “A Day in the Life of a Legal Investigator”

  1. Michelle said

    Great article. I just stumbled across your website. I’m thinking of going into this field and the information gathered here is perfect for my research! Thank you for that 🙂

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