Tuesday, May 17, 2016

          How To Conduct Investigative Interviews

          Tips From Staci Dresher '03, Private Eye
          Sample alt tag.
          "People have many ways to say no."

          From vetting witnesses to revealing fraud, interviewing is a critical skill for most attorneys. But if you're trying to uncover hidden information or crack a tight-lipped source, you can't treat it as a cross-examination. Staci Dresher '03 regularly does tough interviews for legal clients as partner and associate general counsel in the San Francisco office of the Mintz Group, a private investigative firm. Here are her top five tips for lawyers doing investigative interviews.

          1. Do your homework.

          Find out as much as you can about the interviewee before the interview. Where has he lived for the past 15 years? Does he have criminal records or civil judgments in those jurisdictions? What are his corporate alter-egos? Does he own his home or have a history of bankruptcies? Databases that lawyers use, such as LexisNexis and Westlaw, have modules that can help you find a wealth of public records. Social media profiles are also good sources of information.

          2. Plan your approach.

          Practice introducing yourself in a way that doesn't sound intimidating. Plan how many times to call before leaving a voicemail and what you'll say in the message. You want to pique someone's interest without telling them too much. If you think, “This person is not going to talk to me,” they won't. Get in the right mindset: “This person has information that they want to tell me.”

          3. Don't treat it like an interrogation.

          If you say, “Tell me about yourself and how you were involved,” people will freak out. Instead, express that you're on a fact-finding mission and are asking for help. Take the person out of it, and start with technical facts or chronology. For example, “Can you walk me through how the department was organized?” or “Let's just go through the chronology of what happened – I don't need to how you were involved.” Eventually, you'll get to the facts you need.

          4. Use documents to help you.

          Have a document, such as a memo or email, handy when you approach someone. Ideally, it shows their connection to the matter at hand but isn't necessarily incriminating. This gives you a tangible way to show you've done your homework and that the person is already somehow involved.

          5. Prepare for refusals.

          People have many ways to say no. Plan for how to tackle each of them. Use the information you've gathered, and be open and honest. For example, you often hear, “I don't have time right now.” You can say, “Right, I know you work in San Francisco and probably commute home. What's a good time to talk?” Or if the response is, “I want to talk to my lawyer,” say, “I'm happy to talk to your lawyer. Let's call him together.”

          ###

          Related Links

          Staci Dresher '03: From Lawyer to Global Private Eye

          Go to News Archive

          Share this Story

          Share via Facebook
          Share via TwitterShare via EmailPrint Friendly Version

          Other Recent Stories/ RSS

          Wednesday, February 22, 2017

          ‘Always look for the helpers’: Meet 1L Michelle Human, AKA Miss Honey, Professional Faerie

          This little girl looked at me and she said, you're a flower fairy right? I said yes, I'm a flower fairy. She said, okay I have a wish, I wish that the garden in front of my house in Syria, I wish that the flowers could grow there again because right now there's fire and the ground is ash. I wish that we lived in a world where there's no bombs or bullets or fires, and that the earth was reminded how to grow flowers again.
          Tuesday, February 07, 2017

          Civil Rights Lawyer Zahra Billoo ’09 Is Fighting President Trump’s “Travel Ban”

          As leader of a Council on American-Islamic Relations chapter, she is standing up for the rights of Muslim Americans in court and in the media.
          Monday, February 06, 2017

          Hadar Aviram assumes the presidency of the Western Society of Criminology

          Congratulations to UC Hastings Professor Hadar Aviram, who is set to begin her term as the president of the Western Society of Criminology.
          Wednesday, February 01, 2017

          Statement from Dean Faigman: Deans Letter to California Supreme Court re California Bar Exam

          Today a group of 20 deans of ABA-accredited California law schools submitted a letter to the California Supreme Court, calling upon it to “exercise its legal jurisdiction over the California State Bar to adjust its scoring methods to bring them in line with the nation’s at large.”
          Wednesday, February 01, 2017

          Thinkers & Doers: January 2017

          THE RESISTANCE -- Haiku for Law Students -- Judge Gorsuch’s jurisprudence -- A Populist Crusade Against Corporate Greed -- THE MOST READ HBR ARTICLE OF ALL TIME -- Mom bias at work -- Will Trump’s refugee "ban" survive? -- Alumni recording artists -- and much more
          Go to News Archive