Some of our students have asked the question, "When working a case where an attorney is involved on behalf of another party, who is the private investigator's client?"
Great question and the quick answer is "Your client -- the one that is paying you." Of course that does not always answer the question satisfactorily depending on the circumstances. Actually the better question is; "How does a private investigator work with multiple client's, or when there are two needs that are potentially in conflict?"
Consider this case study:
Investigator is contracted by an attorney for an infidelity case. Attorney's client, the "spouse-client", calls the investigator and shares information that may be helpful in scheduling surveillance, but the attorney disagrees. The spouse has received a call from a friend that says his wife is meeting her alleged boyfriend tomorrow night at a restaurant.
The easy response for the investigator is to follow the instructions of the attorney as they hold the contract and that may be the only answer as working outside of the contract could place the investigator in a situation where they will not be paid. Of course, there may be a missed opportunity in identifying, or not identifying, potential infidelity on the part of the spouse.
What would you do?
Click the Read More link below to learn what the investigator actually did in this case.
In this case the private investigator faced a dilemma. The times and dates identified by the attorney were primarily during the day when the spouse, target, was at work as it was thought the boyfriend was a fellow employee.
First, the private investigator met with the attorney to discuss the information that was received and to discuss the information the attorney's client provided her. Still the attorney disagreed feeling that this was a "wild goose chase", that the spouse-client may be caught up in do to her emotional state. The attorney knew there were very limited financial resources on behalf of his client and he wanted to maximize the use of the limited funds. (Attorney is looking out for the client, not trying to be difficult)
Second, the private investigator was having difficulty conducting surveillance on the target as the office she worked in was access controlled and there were no exterior windows to her office that were visible from a public location. Again, the attorney felt the times when the target was arriving to work, going to lunch and leaving work were the best times for the surveillance.
The investigator has a challenge as she feels she is not conducting adequate surveillance of the target but understands the financial challenges. After all, as the investigator she has to get paid as well. So what did our investigator do in this challenging situation?
She made a deal with the attorney. She did not want to conduct the surveillance on the night in question without his approval as the client. She offered to conduct the surveillance at night, at the restaurant, free of charge if nothing came of the tip that was given to the spouse-client. If the tip was correct, then they could adjust the surveillance schedule and she would be paid. The attorney agreed.
Now couple of thoughts about how clever our investigator is....first she considered how far the restaurant was from her office and decided that eating a meal at the restaurant was an acceptable loss to her in time and financial costs. The worst outcome was she would lose the cost of a dinner and some time at the restaurant. Second, she obtained permission from the attorney first. This helped her continue good customer relations with the attorney while still conducting, what she felt, was an adequate investigation.
So what happened? Are you curious? Here is an excerpt from the report, names and some syntax changed to protect the investigation.
Investigator observed target leave work in her vehicle traveling northbound on Rogers Street at 1745. Mr. Doe called investigator at 1805 and told investigator that the target called and said she was working late at the office. Investigator traveled to 123 Noname Lane to Roberto's restaurant.
At 1810, while inside the restaurant, approximately 30 feet away, investigator observed target meeting with a male, approximately 35 years of age. While in the restaurant, the target and male were holding hands and kissed three times (see surveillance photo's and video). At 1905 both left the restaurant holding hands, (see video), and sat in the male's vehicle in the parking lot of the restaurant. Investigator was able to observe that on a few occasions both were kissing, and target was observed laying her head on the male's shoulder (see surveillance photo's and video). At times neither individual was visible to investigator (see stationary video from entry in the parked vehicle to the time they departed the parking lot).
Target exited the vehicle at 1947hrs, got in her vehicle and left the parking lot. Mr. Doe called investigator at 2109 and stated that the target was pulling her vehicle into the garage at home.
Now this case had a happy ending as the attorney and investigator agreed to work together. Whenever there is a conflict with multiple parties we will suggest the investigator should try to find a mutually acceptable solution but in the end side with the one who holds the contract as long as it is not unethical, immoral, or illegal. After all, you are in a contract with them and they are how you get paid.
Pro PI staff
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