Legal InvestigatorJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends
Becoming a legal investigator is much like becoming a private investigator, but they will report to a specific lawyer or law firm. Legal investigators will work to find out information that could be useful in a law case that their lawyers are building against a person or entity. Their roles may include visiting crime scenes and documenting behaviors or other notable items, obtaining records, interviewing witnesses and making calls to set up appointments, and testifying in court when needed.
Legal investigators are crucial members of their team. They must be extremely detail-oriented, trustworthy, and have excellent written and verbal communication skills. They may work long hours or atypical schedules, so those looking to become legal investigators should be prepared to be on call, especially during an important case.
Sample job description
Legal investigators provide services to the public, law firms, insurance companies, banks, and law enforcement agencies. They use techniques such as surveillance, research, and other tools to gather, analyze, and report on information about personal, financial, and legal matters. Legal investigators have keen communication and listening skills, strong analytical ability, and good presentation skills. [Your Company Name] needs a strong legal investigator who can join our team and help our company with legal matters. If you have experience collecting and analyzing information that can be used in trials or litigation, you might be a perfect fit for our opening as a legal investigator.
Typical duties and responsibilities
Locate and interview key witnesses
Collect and examine evidence
Prepare evidence for trial
Verify evidence before trial
Testify in court
Conduct research to help an attorney strategize before a trial
Education and experience
This position requires a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, political science, or a similar field of study, as well as licensing as a private investigator (in applicable states). Coursework in the legal system is also recommended.
Required skills and qualifications
Strong knowledge in civil procedure, statutory and case law, and local rules of court
Proficient in preserving, collecting, and admitting evidence
Strong knowledge of forensic science
Excellent written and verbal communication skills
Strong organizational skills
Keen attention to detail
Ability to work in a fast-paced environment
Average salary and compensation
The average salary for a legal investigator is $62,500 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.
Los Angeles, California
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
New York City, New York
Typical work environment
Legal investigators typically have an office where they might complete paperwork and do online research, but most of their work is tracking down information in the field. They usually work unconventional hours when on a case, which might include nights, weekends, and holidays.
The work hours for a legal investigator are typically from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, in an office setting. However, at times, longer or different hours may be necessary, especially when preparing for an upcoming trial.
Many institutions offer certifications to help legal investigators improve their skills and knowledge. Here are some of the top certifications for legal investigators:
Certified Legal Investigator. The National Association of Legal Investigators sets national certification standards for legal investigators and awards the Certified Legal Investigator credential to individuals who meet professional requirements, including 5+ years of experience and pass rigorous written and oral examinations.
Professional Certified Investigator (PCI). The PCI credential is offered by ASIS International, the world’s largest membership organization for security management professionals. This certification demonstrates your select skills in security investigations, including case evaluation and review of options for case management strategies, and validates your ability to collect information through the effective use of surveillance, interviews, and interrogations. Eligible candidates must have 3 to 5 years of investigations experience, depending on the level of education attained, and 2 years of case management.
The path to becoming a legal investigator begins with earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, political science, or a related field.
Many law firms and legal teams require five years’ experience working in the American legal system. Some states require candidates to pass a written exam to work as a legal investigator. Getting licensed as a Certified Legal Investigator is a great way to jumpstart a career as a Legal Investigator.
US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook
SOC Code: 23-2011
Projected Employment in 2030
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift
As more confidential information is readily stored online and in other digital spaces, legal investigators will need to familiarize themselves with emerging technologies to encrypt and protect files from theft.
Legal investigators must also be more mindful of digital spaces when searching for evidence. Staying plugged into where and how the public interacts online — including on emerging social media platforms — will be crucial to completing thorough investigations.
Sample interview questions
Share an experience you had in dealing with a difficult person and how you handled the situation.
How perceptive are you?
What would you say is the hardest part about being a legal investigator?
Why do you want to work here?
Which technical laws are you most familiar with? Do you have experience working in software industries?
Do you have any professional certifications?
Have you ever had to collect information from witnesses in a company?
What’s the most important step in running a legal investigation?
How do you ensure your evidence doesn’t become contaminated or messed with?
If you could describe your previous employer’s legal investigations, would you describe them as positive or negative?
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