Is Hiring a P.I. Worth It? Consider the Return on Investment
The work of a private investigator is pretty mysterious for most folks. Whether you envision film-
noir clichés or Sherlock Holmes, you’re probably not quite sure what goes on behind the
If you’re an attorney, insurance company, or employer with investigative needs you may be
tempted to cut costs by trying to conduct an investigation of your own.
There are two crucial costs to consider:
Financial cost (time equals money!)
How much of your time will be consumed by activities that an investigator does every day?
In certain circumstances, you may be able to do some of the more straightforward investigative work yourself. But, as a professional, don’t forget the value of your own time—your time is money! How much of your client’s retainer are you burning through, or how much are you costing your organization in lost productivity, while you teach yourself basic investigative techniques?
Additionally, an investigator’s hourly rate is lower than an attorney’s, which can free up resources for lawyer’s costs.
Unfortunately, most people wind up losing more money in productivity costs than they would have spent by hiring an investigator.
Risk and opportunity cost
What is the potential cost of missing something or making a mistake?
If you are in litigation, missing a crucial piece of evidence might cost you the case. As an employer, hiring the wrong person could land you in a lawsuit, or worse! For insurance companies, a less than thorough investigation can mean that you’re unnecessarily paying out on fraudulent claims.
Another special concern for attorneys is that they can not act as witnesses in their own cases, whereas an investigator can be called to testify to their findings.
Hiring an expert will ultimately cost you less, expose you to less risk, and free you up to work
in your area of expertise. In other words, it will grant you a better return on your investment!
Three Reasons Hiring a Legal Investigator Pays Off
Even the most basic background investigation might require analyzing records from a dozen or
more entities. Simply obtaining these records can be extraordinarily time-consuming if you
aren’t familiar with the process. The more complicated the investigation, the more important it is
to have an experienced investigator in order to meet the constraints of litigation, hiring
decisions, insurance deadlines, etc.
P.I.’s and Legal Investigators have training and tools that allow them to conduct investigations
effectively and quickly. A good private investigator works within a tight time-frame and on
a strict budget, while remaining creative and thorough. A high quality investigation will
uncover the most relevant facts efficiently and in a manner that will hold up under any level of
Private investigators have access to special tools and data brokers that are not available to the
average person, or even unlicensed investigators. For more details on investigator’s tools and
methods, check out part three in our three-part series on How to Locate an Individual.
Further, P.I.s are intimately familiar with a multitude of public records and the agencies that host
them. They have working relationships with a variety of entities that facilitates expeditious
access to records much more quickly than it would take the uninitiated.
In some aspects of private investigation, you don’t get a second chance. Professional
investigators have special expertise in these areas. For example, if you make a mistake trying to
serve an elusive defendant or interviewing a reluctant, but crucial witness, you may have lost
that opportunity for good.
To this end, it’s always a good idea to ensure that your investigator has a good local reputation,
and that they’re licensed and certified through the State and through the National Association of
A Professional Investigator is an Investment, Not a Cost
Even when there are aspects of an investigation that you could navigate on your own, it’s
usually much more cost-effective to hire an investigator.
Here are a few specific questions to ask yourself in evaluating the return on investment (ROI):
- What is your own time (or your assistant/paralegal’s time) worth? How much of this time will be taken up learning how to do basic investigative tasks instead of the work you’re already experts in?
- How much is your civil case worth? If you miss a detail or can’t find a witness what will it cost you in actual dollars?
- If you miss something exculpatory in a criminal defense case, how many years will it mean for your client?
- How much will a fraudulent insurance claim cost your company if you aren’t able to conduct effective surveillance or background research?
- If you’re hiring a new employee, what if you overlook a criminal record or sex-offender status? How will the company’s reputation be affected? Will anyone be in harm’s way? What if you trust the employee with large accounts?
Clearly, the relatively minor expense of a legal investigator pales in comparison to these costs.
Ultimately, it makes more sense to think of your investigative expenses as an investment, rather
than a cost. A good P.I. is one who offers a good return on your investment. You should
look for a P.I with a reputation for conducting thorough investigations efficiently and effectively,
with the highest level of integrity.
Inter-State Investigative Services has earned a reputation, over 25 years, as one of the most
effective, thorough, and efficient investigative agencies in Arizona. For more information on the