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Sunday
Apr082012

[FIND] Expertise - How to use your PI - Part 1: The Why's

This series of posts is exerpted from an article produce by Nashville private investigator, Thomas H. Humphreys for Pursuit Magazine. Thomas H. Humphreys holds the CFE designation from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. He is [FIND] Investigaitons' lead investigator.

How to best use a private investigator Part 1

If you're a busy attorney, and you've never considered hiring a private investigator, you're throwing away money. No matter how skilled, experienced, or efficient you are, you can't possibly get to all the work that crosses your desk. You can't do the fishing for case-making facts as thoroughly as you would like. And you can't be an expert in everything.

What if you could outsource some of that time, shoe leather, and expertise, bill for it, and say yes to a wider variety of cases? How smart would you look if you had a savvy private eye in your rolodex, a gal with a hefty rolodex of her own?

The Whys:

Outsource Work

The May 5, 2011 edition of The Economist printed a two-page story about the legal industry in America. They use Howrey (one of the world’s top 100 law firms) as an example of sea-change facing the profession. Aside from bankruptcy, securities litigation, and regulation issues, the world of 700 member law firms has been hit hard. Gone are the lucrative mergers and acquisitions (M&A), and it seems that clients are seeking, even demanding, alternatives to the ubiquitous billable hour.

One point The Economist makes: Clients are demanding “…that their lawyers pass certain routine work to cheaper contractors.”

Should lead counsel be in the field interviewing witnesses, canvasing neighborhoods, and personally vetting experts? Someone must, but these things take a lot of time and often lead to endless cul-de-sacs of evidentiary dead ends. Why not pay a professional investigator to track down hard-to-find witnesses, canvas the area, and vet experts?

Outsource Expertise

It used to be that an associate could read up on a topic and brief the partner, each being paid handsomely for the private course of study. Now, more often than not, it makes more sense to bring in a qualified expert in certain fields, pay her a flat fee or lower hourly rate, and likely be better informed in the long run.

The Economist points out that law firms can guarantee themselves work by becoming “…experts in other industries, not just areas of legal practice.” An alternative to this, The Economist points out, would be outsourcing the expertise.

That’s where professional investigators come in. An attorney can leverage expertise, an investigative firm’s collective experience, to his own benefit. A true professional investigator either maintains expertise in various areas, or maintains affiliations with industry specific experts. Either way, an adept lawyer will realize the value of knowing a professional investigator, the consummate information professional, the guy who knows a guy.

First and foremost, attorneys are experts in the law. Some lawyers also craft themselves into industry specific experts: real estate, finance, criminal defense, aviation, medical malpractice, etc. The lawyer/expert is usually a person who takes on one type of case and charges top-of-the market fees for his niche. However, for the majority in the legal profession, criminal defense work can mean anything from a criminal charge for inadvertently carrying a four-inch pocketknife through airport security (a misdemeanor in Tennessee, apparently) to first-degree murder (widely accepted as felonious activity anywhere in the country), and literally anything in between.

Experts in the law, a general defense team should be well equipped to argue legal points; but what about specific issues in obscure cases from various disciplines in which they are not schooled?

Can, or should, counsel review a real estate appraisal report for a fraud case? It seems easy enough, but what about making sure the report follows Uniform Standards of Appraisal Practice? What are the four forces that are required to create value? These are industry-specific issues in which most attorneys do not (nor should they be expected to) have any competency.

Would it be advisable for a lawyer to analyze blood spatter in a crime scene photo? Should an attorney be expected to break down a financial statement and explain in detail whether it is misleading or fraudulent?

Why not hire a professional investigator knowledgeable in that field to bring one up to speed? By delegating work to experts in various fields, counsel makes his firm look savvy, connected, and thorough.

In the end, law firms must decide on a case-by-case basis whether to add a PI to the defense team. If your client left his cheese knife in his backpack after a weekend of hiking and finds himself in the clutches of TSA and airport police, an investigator probably isn’t necessary. If, however, your client has been charged with fraud in conjunction with an eleventy-billion dollar Ponzi scheme, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to consider hiring a professional investigator. Client is a local charged with DUI, no real need for a PI. Client’s an international banking mogul charged with attempted rape, you bet a PI is one of your first calls.

Part 2: The How's will post next week.

Friday
Apr062012

The Sartorial Sleuth - Bow Tie Season Is Upon Us...

Image from I, Sensualist via Nantucketyouth. 

Wednesday
Mar282012

Start Over Smart - A Modern Divorce Expo - New York

Nashville private investigator Thomas H. Humprheys on divorce fairs and why they may be a great idea:

Start Over Smart, a Modern Divorce Expo. Hosted at the Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street, NY, NY this weekend. Oh how I wish I had known about this sooner.

[FIND] Lexicon 

Divorce (de vors) n. 1. the legal disolution of a marriage 2. complete or radical severance of closley connected things.

The following stats are taken from the Start Over Smart Expo website:

The chances of a marriage surviving today are roughly equivelent to the flip of a coin. The number of marriages that end in divorce...45% to 50% for first marriages. ...60% to 67% for second marriages. ...70% to 73% for third marriages. The statistics are not necessarily encouraging.

Approximately 10% of the U.S. population has been through a divorce. I'm going to venture a guess that you have either been divorced, are directly related to someone who is divorced, or are close friends with someone who has traveled the long lonely road to splitsville.

The average duration of a divorce proceeding? About a year. And it's often a dificult, painful, embarassing, and ego-crushing experience, but somehow percieved as better than staying in a broken relationship.

Many professional investigators shun domestic work—too tawdry, too messy, beneath them. Here at [FIND] Investigations, we don't mind matrimonial investigations. Domestic investigations, even though they are sometimes tawdry and messy, offer our investigators an opportunity to ply their skills in a nuanced fashion. 

Our team has attended conventions undercover as builders and real estate agents. We've donned western wear and two-stepped in honky-tonks. We've trolled the streets of the French Quarter, looking for illicit behavior. 

The work is, if nothing else, entertaining. It's also, quite often, gratifying.

Husband's being a sanctimonious jerk, lawyered up and ready to fight wife to the bitter end. He has a few words to say about her lifestyle, her friendships, her enjoyment of the bottle, and he wants to win and take all. Wife contends husband is no saint, hires us to document husband's drug use. We obtain high-definition video of husband smoking it up - deadhead style - in the car with a very young lady formerly wearing a mumu and currently wearing only dreads. In mediation, upon being presented with his porn debut, husband's tone suddenly morphs from arrogant jackass to conciliatory. 

Wife brings home the bacon, plays the "I'm just a poor little soon-to-be single mother" card to great impact in meetings. Husband hires us to document wife's affair. We doll up in western shirts and shit-kicker boots and go two-stepping in a local honky-tonk. Wife dances "girls-gone-wild-style" on a table with her boyfriend. They make out in the relative privacy of a dive bar full of strangers, stroll back to their hotel hand-in-hand, and end up in sharing a hotel room at the Hyatt. In mediation wife's tone switches from "poor little me" to outraged power-player in less than a second. 

We don't judge—we just collect information—facts and documentation that often comes in mighty handy at the mediation table. Truth empowers.

Divorce is never an easy thing. Emotions, egos, and hearts all live somewhere out near the edge of a sleeve, exposed and itchy. 

The good thing is that you don't have to walk the road alone. Friends can prop you up. Lawyers (yes I know - but they do serve a purpose) can help you navigate the system. PIs (again, yes I know - but they serve a purpose too) can help you sort out the facts from the hot rhetoric, and gain clarity and understanding. However, it's often hard to know which of these disparate services you really need, as the slow, painful realizations start rolling in. Sometimes you don't know what, or who, you need until it's too late. That's where the most interesting event I've seen in years, the Divorce Expo, might just come in handy. 

What a fantastic idea: a two-day gathering of experts, support services, and fellow travelers. I read about the Paris Divorce Expo a couple of years ago, and decided to skip the event due to -  well - it was in Paris. I just heard about the NY Divorce Expo this morning. Had I known about it sooner, I'd be in NY this weekend.

Maybe soon, we can put together a Divorce Expo right here in Nashville. It would be, if nothing else, entertaining. And most likely quite informative.

 

Monday
Mar192012

The Sartorial Sleuth - Guest Blogger, Dr. Dave Gilbert

Throughout the summer months, Nashville private investigator, Thomas H. Humphreys, reaches out to some of Nashville's most well respected experts in style to assist in his investigations into the world of the sartorial. This month - Dr. Dave Gilbert, long time friend, raconteur, and man-about-town. First the pictures, then Dr. Dave's thoughts on personal style. Pay attention people...

Dressing for Success - Photos by www.chaddaviscreative.com

The "old dress for success" tips of yore depended upon a monolithic professional culture that no longer exists -- rules of decorum are as fractured as the culture itself. The richest twenty-something in the world wears a Gap hoodie to the office, while a thirty-something valet at a nice restaurant might be expected to wear a starched white shirt and foulard tie. Executives at HCA still wear the uniform of blue suit and red tie, but if you visit the Entrepreneur Center in downtown Nashville, you are more likely to see guys in polo shirts and khaki shorts. Successful middle-aged music-business types wear Affliction t-shirts and long hair with their cowboy boots. There are as many rules for successful dressing as there are modern day categories of work.

That being said, if you want to be seen as a man with style, rather than just as a man who fits in, here are a few tips:

I. Pick out your own clothes. If you have been dressed all of your life by either your mom or your wife, you are a man-baby, and your clothing tells us that you have never managed to form an independent persona.

II. Learn the rules. As with art, all style is the result of innovating within constraints. You need to know the rules before you can break them.

III. Know where you came from. Style may be personal, but it's never private; it is the product of dialogue within a culture, and within history. Style is similar to rap music; all true innovation takes place on the street.

IV. Pay attention. Cayce Pollard, the cool hunting protagonist in William Gibson's 2003 novel Pattern Recognition, was allergic to brands -- a label touching her body would literally make her sick. If you don't have sensitivity to color, texture, silhouette, and even brand, you probably won't have style.

V. Make your own rules. A few of your rules need to be your own and no one else's, even if they're arbitrary. An ex-girlfriend who taught me most of what I know about style wouldn't wear anything made of denim except for jeans, i.e., no denim shirts or jackets. She would also only wear black or gray denim jeans, never blue. These rules were for her alone, not ones she wished to impose on anyone else, but they helped to make her style very personal and unique.

 

VI. Know how you look in your clothes. Many guys have never bothered to crane their necks with a mirror behind them to see how their clothes fit them on the backside. You can also use a handheld mirror in conjunction with a bathroom or dressing mirror to examine back and side-views. Paying attention to how clothes look on your body from various angles is not a sign of vanity, but rather of self-awareness and self-respect.

VII. Know how clothes should fit you. Once upon a time, when our mothers and grandmothers made our clothes, everyone, even us normal folk, wore "bespoke" clothing. If you look at pictures of dudes on bicycles from the 1920s you will see their clothes fit them perfectly. Mass production of clothing has led to a desire for quantity over quality. Old Navy and the Gap have taught a generation of men that they should schlep around in dad jeans and sweatshirts like overgrown children. Clothing that fits and actually looks good is now seen as too tight and restrictive. Can you imagine John Wayne in a Gap hoodie? No, you can't.

VIII. Don't ever wear "dad jeans." Dad jeans are never acceptable. Even in the privacy of your own home, the Lord still knows.

IX. Don't wear comfort shoes. Remember the shoes your grandfather wore? Your grandfather managed to stomp Nazi ass all over Europe with leather footwear.

X. Ignore the imitators. A good friend asked me, "Why do you still wear work-boots and cuffed jeans when the boys who shop at Urban Outfitters now wear them?" My answer is simple: because I don't feel the need to look different just for the sake of looking different. Mass merchants will always ape artisans and early adopters by flooding the market with cheapened, valueless knock-offs. 2nd-tier stylists will always dress the latest "artist" in these knock-offs. What they do has no reflection on me, or on anyone with style.

XI. Style is about values. Style is not formed by mastering the formal rules of color, silhouette, etc., but rather by knowing who you are in relation to the culture. It's about taking a stand, and that includes your values. If you buy your clothing from people you know, or if you care about the conditions under which your clothing was made, you represent your values and your relationship to the community.

XII. Less is more. Style is more about what you don't wear than what you do wear. It's the negative space in your wardrobe that counts. When shopping, exercise restraint. Everything you buy and add to your wardrobe impacts everything already in your wardrobe. When you consider buying something ask yourself, "What will this item replace, or devalue?"

XIII. Don't wear sandals. Open-toed footwear is not acceptable on men who are no longer in college, unless they are at home, the pool, or the beach. If you must wear sandals, you must maintain your feet. Get pedicures. No one wants to see your yellowed, misshapen toe nails in a business meeting or at dinner. No one should suffer for the sake of your comfort.

XIV. Finally, inject some humor into your look. Don't take yourself too seriously. No one else does.

Tuesday
Mar132012

You Can't Please Everyone

Nashville private investigator, Thomas H. Humphreys, reads Seth Godin just about every day. Mr. Godin put up a post on his blog this morning that resonates. The title of the piece is, "The mathematical impossibility of universal delight."

We here at [FIND] Investigations choose to be visible, not the alternative. We choose an audiance that is varied. On this blog, we make efforts to entertain and maybe, just maybe, enlighten. Over the next month you'll find a series of posts on a variety of topics. 

[FIND] Vice will once again see the light of day with a spring series from our adopted home town, New Orleans. You'll see new drinks, old detectives, and a Vieux Carre take on the art of mixology - The same quality cocktail you've come to adore, just another perspective.

The Sartorial Sleuth will hold court on matters of style and being a gentleman. We'll have a look at the well dressed PI from history and fiction, as well as some modern day examples of how to dress like a man. We're also enlisting the help of some of our favorite stylists to add a little bit of credibility to the posts. Up first, Dr. Dave Gilbert of Salttt

We will offer the usual thoughts on fraud prevention and detection. Tips and tricks to avoid having your life ruined by nefarious actors.

The newest member of our team will offer some words on the process of becoming licensed in Tennessee. In this monthly column, Allison shares her experience dealing with the PI Commission, studying for and taking the PI test, and learning the trade. Should be useful for those aspiring gumshoes out there.

Finally, we're going to introduce a kids' corner. [FIND] Kids will offer some ideas and resources for educators. We will dig deep into our rolodex, call in some favors, and share those resources with you. We'll provide lesson plans, activities, and contacts for spy camps and museums.

Not everybody likes what we do here on the [FIND] Blog, but we do. Some folks get mad, others get inspired. As Seth Godin says, "What delights one, enrages the other. Part of the deal." Stay tuned...