Somewhere a company or individual is unhappy with their present attorney, albeit not necessarily fair. Others begin an on-line search for immediate legal issues. How does a client choose? Sometimes, it’s near where you reside or where your business is located. We all want convenience after all. Maybe it’s from a referral you’ve received from another law firm or individual. For the internet researcher, you hope the testimonials are legitimate and the good reviews, well you want to believe it’s the norm.
There’s no shortage of legal needs for organizations and individuals. Employment attorneys are quite busy these days. Business divorces, spousal divorces, trademark infringement, fraud, automobile accidents, mergers, purchases, criminal charges, premises liability and a legion of others.
New law firms are being added to the Atlanta area. So many, it’s difficult to distinguish from the crowd in today’s era of hyper marketing. For the client, there might be a question you could ask the next law firm or even your current firm. The question could be a difference maker. Or, simply add clarity to understand the next move. In the end, it’s so that you receive sound advice and the best possible outcome. For the law firm, perhaps a revisit of the subject is needed.
It is the experienced, seasoned, dare we say, enlightened law firms who understand a skilled private investigator can add immense value to engagements. While nothing is guaranteed, the private investigator can shift a case one way or another and it happens more often than you think. Let’s examine a personal injury case. Multiple attorneys declined to consider the matter but one firm thought of the possibility. They called an Atlanta private investigator they had worked with.
The investigator had little to go on. There was an elusive witness to the injury incident, whose name was unknown. Soon, the investigator positively identified the witness. This was success in itself. Unfortunately, the witness was difficult to locate…very difficult. He was an elderly retiree. No relatives could be located or else they were deceased. The retired witness was introverted, didn’t associate with people and wanted to be left alone. So much, he left no forwarding address whenever moving. Motor vehicle and phone records were of no help. None of his previous addresses revealed much. His prior vocation couldn’t be determined.
No decedent records were found so he could still be alive. Records though, were rarely completely reliable. In addition, the witness was hermit like. He could have been cremated, leaving the absence of a traditional obituary. Then there was always the delay in record updates. More than once, a window of records delay had led to the wrong conclusion. Property ownership and residences seemed odd and contradictory. Some of the properties were now vacant lots. However, the investigator noticed something as he visited one of the lots – it was neatly maintained.
What was left was to only talk to more people. But how much, as the law firm was footing the bill with little guarantee of a return. The investigator hated spending a client’s money with such uncertain outcomes. People he had noticed, were more reluctant than ever to talk. He assured everyone he spoke to that no one was in trouble. It was for a good cause. It was to learn facts that could make an injured person as whole as possible. The injury was ugly. Later it was discovered, the opposing party had lied about the circumstances of the incident. Not misrepresented it, but lied. Understandably, a number of law firms saw the gigantic task at hand. Then, who knows what the witness could or would say. How good would his memory be? Money could be spent unwisely.
Our private investigator asked more questions of people near the vacant lots. Nothing significant was learned. A tactic he sometimes used while completely legal, was controversial and often misunderstood. He rarely spoke of it because of the explanations he had to provide. He couldn’t give a legal opinion but he had received a legal opinion, a paid legal opinion at that, on its use. The approach was even taught in a class he took. Just in case, he kept a copy of the statute available should he ever be questioned. He decided to try it. The result was telling. Now, he was confident that the witness was still alive and living in the Atlanta area.
He chose a day with good weather. The investigator traversed the vacant lots. One, he had only visited an hour before but returned to. It was luck blended with persistence. Finally, he had located him. The elderly witness parked his old pickup truck and was about start a chainsaw, when the investigator drove up.
The witness was just as evasive as his makeup suggested. Reluctant, surly and highly suspicious, “How did you find me?” he barked. It was indeed a demand and not a question. Now getting a statement was yet the next challenge. Almost as difficult as finding him. The witness refused to ever provide his home address. Cautiously he began to talk. The investigator took a chance and videoed the witness’s statement. The witness was credible and the video swung heavily for the injured party. So much, after the opposing counsel viewed the video, they couldn’t make an offer fast enough. It was a good one too.
Obviously, a law firm’s distinction can be the use of a private investigator or fraud examiner. Certainly, it’s not unique to Atlanta but ask what the competition has? It is the one question a prospective client can ask during their search – if private investigators are used. Or at minimum, ask if it could bring value? Then, listen for the response.
At an investigation conference, one Georgia attorney declared, “When I was first practicing law, I wouldn’t consider hiring an investigator. I’ve now found the money spent is more than worth it.” We never asked the attorney about his early reluctance. We have noticed when approaching a few law firms, while being polite they quickly dismiss the idea. Some are indifferent, haven’t experienced the value or can’t envision a positive outcome. Others smile and say they have their preferred person. It’s the one element that can set you apart.