Advance Your Litigation Paralegal Career

How to Use Investigative Analysis Skills to Advance Your Litigation Paralegal Career

One way to advance your litigation paralegal career and take on other roles is to add new skills. Usually, the “go-to” answer is eDiscovery.  But there are many other skills that you can add that will also advance your career and make you more valuable as an employee, whether you work for a law firm, in-house corporate legal department, or a government agency.

As a litigation paralegal or a personal injury paralegal, have you ever been frustrated with incomplete, inaccurate, and flawed investigations that you outsource to investigative firms?  The simple truth is that most investigators do not receive formal investigative analysis training and don’t know the Investigative analysis process.  Essentially, you are paying for investigative analysis services that they’re incapable of providing.

Most private investigators are skilled at collecting information through surveillance and interviews or have a specific specialty, such as digital/computer forensics or forensic accounting.  Instead of outsourcing to investigative agencies for services they can’t perform, focus on utilizing investigators on their core strength of collecting information.  

litigation paralegal career

When properly trained, a litigation paralegal can quickly learn the investigative analysis process.  

As a result of managing and directing the investigative analysis process, you will develop detailed knowledge of the case to serve your client better and more efficiently than outsourcing this to someone who should just focus on gathering the information.

Let’s look at 3 steps you can start taking now that will help you in the investigative analysis process.

Step 1 – Develop a Questioning Attitude

The foundation to becoming a successful investigative analyst is to stop living off other people’s truth and develop a questioning attitude, to dig deeper into the case, and develop detailed knowledge. 

litigation paralegal career questions to ask

Questioning Attitude

A questioning attitude is simply asking: 

Who?

What?

When?

Where?

Why?

How?

What Else?

What Other? 

When you are reviewing case documentation or conducting interviews, use a questioning attitude to ask the next question, and then the next question to dive deeper and deeper, to develop knowledge. 

A practical method to train yourself is to select a news story from your local newspaper and underline or highlight names, locations and key events in the article and use your questioning attitude. 

A few examples of follow-up questions you might ask:

  • Who else was involved? Who witnessed the event?
  • What led up to the event?
  • Why this location? Time? Why were they there?
  • Where else has this occurred?
  • When has this happened before?
  • How did this occur?
  • Did something else contribute to the events?

The goal is to dig deeper and deeper into the incident or whatever that story is trying to tell you.  A questioning attitude is key to understand an issue, gain detailed knowledge, and seek the truth.

Step 2 – Learn the Basics of the Investigative Analysis Process

Empowered with the Questioning Attitude, you now understand the foundation or single most important factor of an investigative analyst.  With this foundation, it’s time to understand the five (5) step Investigative Analysis process and how you can use it to add a skill set to your litigation paralegal career.     

Before jumping directly into the Investigative Analysis Process, I find it helpful for many students to think about this new process like cooking a new recipe or meal.  On that recipe card you will find ingredients, supplies, and a step-by-step procedure to make the meal. 

  • Ingredient & Supplies … Questioning Attitude
  • Step-by-Step Procedures … Investigative Analysis Process
litigation paralegal role in investigations

Investigative Analysis Process

The Investigative Analysis Process or “Intelligence Cycle” is a 5-Step Process to help gather, process, and analyze information to develop detailed knowledge to support your client.

The five steps include:

  1. Planning and Direction
  2. Collection
  3. Processing
  4. Analysis and Production
  5. Dissemination

1. Planning and Direction

Planning and Direction is the management step in the process where you will perform three (3) actions.

  • Individually review the entire case file to become familiar with the file and assess where the author of the file was going with the case. 
  • Assemble your team and review the case file line-by-line to establish two (2) lists … what I know (Knowns) and what I don’t know (Unknowns) about the case.
  • Develop questions to answer your unknowns, tapping your newfound questioning attitude. 

Once you have developed your list of questions, you need to determine and direct collection to gather information to answer these questions.  This is the 1st and only time you may want to outsource collection efforts to a private investigator or subject matter expert.

paralegal investigations course

2. Collection

Collection is the gathering of the raw information needed to answer your questions and produce finished analysis products.  There are multiple sources of information which we have categorized in the following:

  • Open Source … Internet, Printed Media, Publicly Accessible Information
  • Imagery … Handheld Camera, Cell Phones, Security Systems, Drone, Commercial Satellite imagery, etc.…
  • Human Interactions … Interviewing, Debriefing, Depositions, Sources
  • Covert … Surveillance, Recordings, Sources
  • Devices … GPS Tracking, Polygraph, Digital Forensics
  • Scientific … DNA, Urinalysis

3. Processing

Once the information or data is collected, the litigation paralegal should evaluate and assess the information for the reliability of the source (the provider of the information) and the quality/validity/accuracy of the information.  There are various techniques to perform this assessment, with the goal to only analyze information that is reliable, high quality, and confirmed. 

4. Analysis and Production

The analysis and production step is the conversion of basic information into finished analytical products.  Analysis is an in-depth examination of the meaning and essential features of available information.  It includes data integration, interpretation, and hypothesis development. 

As part of this process, it is helpful for the litigation paralegal/personal injury paralegal to use and develop the following products:

  • Timeline Analysis – a graphic visualization of events or activities that occurred before, during, and after a given event.
  • Association Matrix – a matrix of relationships between two or more persons or locations.
  • Link Analysis – a visualization of relationships of entities (Individuals, Organizations, Locations) to clarify relationships and aid in inference development.

5. Dissemination

litigation paralegal meeting

The last step, which logically feeds into the first, is the distribution of the finished analytical products to the end-user.  The products you use may vary depending on your case or law firm, but the three (3) products listed above should be part of telling your investigative story.

Serve the Client Better

Empowered with a questioning attitude and using the investigative analysis process, your litigation team can eliminate incomplete, inaccurate, and flawed investigations, develop detailed knowledge of the case, and serve your client.

Step 3: Get Certified in Investigative Analysis

The Paralegal Boot Camp has partnered with Eagle Investigative Services, Inc., an industry leader in investigations, to help paralegals and other legal professionals get certified in this field of study. We are offering a 3-part course series that will earn you the Certified Investigative Legal Professional (CILP) to open up more opportunities and excel in your litigation paralegal career.

In this 3-course program, you’ll learn how to:

  • begin your investigation
  • identify information sources
  • debrief witnesses
  • review law enforcement reports and other records  
  • know when something is missing and needs more in-depth investigation, and
  • add value to your case in all areas of litigation and personal injury, representing any party (plaintiff or defendant).   

About the Author

Len Abbatiello is the Director of Training Services for Eagle Investigative Services, Inc. He develops continuing education training services to teach paralegals, attorneys, and Eagle’s Cold Case Unit investigators on investigative analysis methodologies.

Len is a retired Naval Intelligence Officer (Captain / O6) and an expert in investigative analysis, information operations, and strategic planning.  Following his retirement from the Navy and before returning to the investigative analysis services industry, Len served as a defense information technology consultant.  Len holds a bachelor’s degree in Geography (Remote Sensing & Cartography), a master’s degree in Management and, is a graduate of the Armed Forces Staff College and the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College.

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