GIVE YOUR PI ALL OF THE INFORMATION YOU HAVE UPFRONT
What a PI needs is everything that you know. What you tell your PI is his starting point. So let him start as far ahead as possible. Here’s a short list of the kinds of things to provide to your PI, preferably in writing:
- Name of subject and make sure it’s the correct legal name
- Subject’s date of birth
- Subject’s current address
- Now if you don’t have the above, then there are a lot of other things which a PI can use to figure out who someone is: previous addresses, name of relatives, companies where they work, the license plate of their car or truck, their social security number, the name of a company they own, the address of a property they own.
All of the above goes towards figuring out who the person is. I once had a friend hire me to help locate someone for discovery in a case. She said she just needed “her phone number”. I asked her, “do you think there is a fantasy phone book somewhere where I look up a person’s phone number?”. No PI will provide “just a phone number” because we need to make sure we have the right person. That’s easier said than done. But very important.
SET THE GOAL/OBJECTIVE, THEN GET OUT OF THE WAY
Your PI will be most successful if you tell them the real goal upfront and let them decide how to achieve it. Then get out of the way while they go to work.
One time I had a client ask if I could go to a particular location to find someone. I agreed to drop everything I was doing, including dinner, and race to the location, 30 miles away. Since I always keep my white Toyota Camry ready, I jumped in my car and headed out. She called me fifteen minutes later and asked, “are you on your way?” “Yes” I answered. “Can you go faster?” she said.
Micromanaging your PI is seldom a good idea. Are you an expert because you have watched a lot of TV? Or because you always thought you could be a PI? Maybe you can. But is it possible that someone who has done this a hundred or a thousand times might have some better ideas on how to get it done?
Micromanage at your own peril. I have had several clients ask for very specific investigative technique, only to find it was the wrong one at the wrong time. For example, one time I had a lawyer who specifically asked me to watch a pool at an apartment complex. She was convinced that the mother with the “stolen” child would go there. After six hours the first day and no sign, she called it off and asked me to go back the second day.
On the second day, again the subjects were a no-show. But I noticed something unusual, another single mom and a boy of the same age and….they looked similar to my subject pics. So I took some pictures and sent them to the lawyer-client. Guess what? It was the sister and nephew. Remember what I said about sharing all of the information up front? Maybe they made me. Maybe they were the scouting party to see if any unusual people were at the pool. Either way, it was a bad choice to not share that with me.
But here’s the really bad choice that lawyer made. Instead of giving me the assignment to get a picture of the mom and her son in Texas, which was the illegal part, she kept me at the pool all day each day. They never showed. Had she just given me the mission, I would have done something completely different – watched the apartment. People have to come outside at some point, whether to walk the dog (they had one), to go for food, or just to be outside. 99% we would have gotten our pics that way.
My favorite part of this story is that the lawyer complained that we didn’t do our job right – when we did exactly what she asked! Frustrating.
Give the PI your objectives and goals, not the specific steps to achieve them.
ASSESS THE RESULTS
As you go forward, assess the results. Be candid with yourself and with the PI. You spent $1,000 – what did that get you? Do you think the PI is getting close? Does he have an idea on how to get you the result you need? Is it plausible?
Don’t be afraid to withdraw (ie fire the PI) and find a new one. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. While I cautioned about micro-managing above, it doesn’t hurt to ask “what about this idea?.... could you do it this way?....how do we get this done?”
Only you can determine if its worth it. So do that at every milestone.