Many clients have asked about the necessity of having an investigator conduct interviews.
Why pay a professional investigator to talk to people and ask questions; can’t anyone do that?
Investigators are there to help. A client is typically a part of the incident or event that brought about the case, and therefore has a very specific perspective and a focused viewpoint.
For example, in the case of a car accident, the client will want to interview the persons that were a part of the collision…but they may not think to interview any people that saw the accident from across the street, or from a nearby office building. As another example such as a workplace case with co-workers, the investigator will ask and answer questions often with far different results that questions posed by the untrained.
Most people think about a job interview when they hear the word ‘interview’. When they think of an investigator asking questions, people immediately think of a police or law enforcement ‘interviews’, which are actually a polite term for ‘interrogation.’ The investigator interview is not an interrogation – interrogations are a part of a criminal case, and are conducted by agents of law enforcement.
Investigator interviews are affiliated with civil cases. But, much like the interrogation and job interviews, the investigator interviews do have specific questions designed to elicit responses, with follow-up questions, and an overall exchange between the investigator and interviewee. This exchange is more of a formalized conversation.
Don’t be thrown by the word ‘conversation.’ While the connotation of the word ‘conversation’ implies a relaxed or inconsequential exchange of little import, nothing could be further from the truth. The investigator will go into the interview with specific goals: questions to ask, information to gather, perhaps names of others that may be interviewed. The investigator is ‘outside of the situation’, without a personal involvement in the event, and so is able to provide an ‘outside perspective’, clear of any bias.
The investigator has experience in talking with people in many different situations. Interviewees are often reluctant to ‘become involved,’ or they don’t think their contribution will be of help. Interviewees may also actively dislike the client of the case! An investigator has a better chance of navigating those tricky pitfalls and steering the conversation to come out with information that may be helpful.
People who are interviewed will often feel more comfortable when speaking with someone, like the investigator, that is ‘officially involved’ with a pending case; even more so when the interviewees are not directly affected by the statements they provide. I’ve found that most people want very much to help, but are concerned that what they say may hurt or inconvenience the client.
As an example, let’s look at situations where clients directly do interviews with people and witnesses. Interviewees will “soften” statements and responses, omitting details, opinions and observations, out of fear for upsetting the client conducting the interview.
The investigator provides an additional buffer between the interviewee and the legal team, and most people find that a bit less intimidating, and will often provide responses answer more freely since the investigator has no personal stake in the event. The interviewing investigators know that success depends on being easy to talk to, and they know how to present themselves as such.