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Not Your Average Private Eye: Legal Investigators Bring Expertise and Ethics to the Field

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When attorneys need the facts, and nothing but the facts, they often don't go hunting for those facts alone: they hire legal investigators, choice experts who specialize in gathering information and interviewing witnesses in connection with pending or possible suits.

Not Your Average Private Eye: Legal Investigators Bring Expertise and Ethics to the Field


(Legal investigators) usually focus on one of two avenues,'' said Robert Townsend, sole practitioner at R.H. Townsend Associates and National Director of the National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI). ''They may be working with either plaintiffs, particularly in personal injury cases, or criminal defendants,'' said Mr. Townsend, who represents mostly plaintiffs' cases and specializes in catastrophic personal injury involving the intended or unintended malfunction of products. ''I specialize in criminal defense, (often dealing with) the death penalty and capital litigation,'' said H. Ellis Armistead, legal investigator, Assistant National Director of NALI, and Chairman of the Board of the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado.

Whether it is gathering information to help a wrongly convicted defendant or interviewing witnesses to an accident, legal investigators wear multiple hats. ''(My tasks include) contacting and locating witnesses, interviewing, and scene reconstruction,'' Mr. Armistead said. ''We work as a team member with the attorney, so that we can coordinate the (client's) needs and obtain the necessary information,'' said Mr. Townsend. Some legal investigators remain in-house at law firms, while others choose to work in independent contractor capacities.

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