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Legal Investigator Career Guide

Do you enjoy collecting evidence to piece together a story? Then a detail-oriented position as a legal investigator may be the ideal occupation for you. 

Unlike “private eyes,” who work directly for members of the public, legal investigators report to a specific attorney or law firm. They conduct research in preparation for a lawyer taking a case to trial.

A legal investigator is a crucial member of any successful legal team. Investigators visit and document crime scenes, obtain medical or legal records and interview witnesses. Investigators may also testify in court to explain their findings and support their legal team’s 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

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.  

Typical hours

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.

Available certifications

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.

Career path

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

2020 Employment345,600
Projected Employment in 2030387,000
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 12% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift41,400 increase

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.