How to Become a Legal Investigator

Handcuffs and gavel on fingerprint sheetThe justice system of most of the countries and especially that of the United States is dependent on cold and hardcore evidence. Legal investigators are the professionals that deal with both prosecuting and defense attorneys and further ensure that they have all pertinent information, including records, documents, and witness testimony, at their disposal when making their case, whether in civil or criminal courts.

All information and evidence must have advanced legal theories to benefit their client’s case. Due to time constraints, lawyers often rely on a specialized team of professionals to gather the information and documents needed for the case, with legal investigators being an integral part of that team. Now that you know what legal investigators are all about, let’s find out how to become an investigator for an attorney. 

Legal investigators perform a number of essential duties for both defense and prosecuting teams, all of which require a sharp mind, extensive researching skills, excellent oral and written communication skills, and astute investigative skills. This is all the more reason to get Professional Certification for Legal Investigators as it gives legitimacy to their work experience.

Legal Investigator Job Description

These investigative professionals, throughout the course of any given day, may be responsible for preparing court records and other legal documents, testifying in court, and interviewing witnesses for numerous cases. Legal investigators often work in fast-paced environments that require excellent organizational skills and an ability to prioritize and complete tasks as per the stringent time schedule set for these allotted tasks. Just a few of the duties of legal investigators include:

  • Preparing, serving, and filing legal documents, such as affidavits, appeals, contracts, briefs, wills, real estate closings, etc.
  • Researching legal models
  • Locating and interviewing witnesses and parties
  • Obtaining and examining evidence
  • Verifying existing evidence
  • Gathering and analyzing research data, including legal codes, documents, and articles
  • Preparing evidence and exhibits for trial
  • Reconstructing crime scenes
  • Conducting research for lawyers initiating legal action, supporting legal proceedings, and devising defense strategies
  • Filing pleadings with court clerks

Through research and investigation, legal investigators provide lawyers with information that is both pertinent and accurate. Legal investigators must have a deep understanding of the rules of evidence, and they must ensure that all evidence is gathered according to the law and that their findings remain objective at all times.

Legal investigators may work directly for a law firm, attorney, public defender, or district attorney, so that they may provide their services on a contractual basis. Now that you know about the job role, let’s know further about how to become a legal investigator. Here’s what you need to know about how to become an investigator for lawyers.

Preparing to Become a Legal Investigator: Education and State Certification

A legal investigator is an interdisciplinary profession, as these professionals must have excellent investigative skills and a profound understanding of the law, as well as the criminal and civil justice systems.

Although there is no clear-cut path to a career as a legal investigator, most employers require a four-year degree in criminal justice, political science, or a related field, as well as coursework in the legal system.

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Coursework often pursued by individuals seeking to pursue legal investigator jobs includes legal terminology, legal ethics, civil litigation, criminal litigation, legal research, and investigative techniques.

A comprehensive education, through a bachelor’s or graduate degree in criminal justice, should include the following:

  • Legal and ethical considerations for the legal investigator
  • An introduction to the legal system and the proper service of the legal process
  • General interviewing and investigation techniques
  • Sources of leads and information
  • Taking witness statements
  • Surveillance techniques
  • Fact analysis
  • Document analysis and control
  • Testimony and case studies

Interested in becoming a Legal Investigator? Find private investigator schools, programs, and education options near you.

According to the National Association of Legal Investigators, these investigators must have a thorough knowledge of the following:

  • Statutory and case law
  • Local rules of court
  • Civil procedure
  • Forensic sciences
  • Techniques of evidence collection
  • Evidence preservation
  • Evidence admissibility

Beyond a degree, most states require legal investigators to be licensed private investigators. Although state requirements to become a licensed private investigator differ from one state to the next, most states require minimum education and experience for private investigator candidates. Furthermore, some states require passing a written examination.

Professional Certification for Legal Investigators

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Legal investigators often pursue professional certification to distinguish themselves in this highly competitive field. For example, many legal investigators pursue the Certified Legal Investigator certification from the National Association of Legal Investigators.

The National Association of Legal Investigators sets national certification standards for legal investigators and grants national certification to those individuals who meet professional requirements and who successfully pass written and oral examinations and complete a 1,000-word research paper. Legal investigators who hold the credential of Certified Legal Investigator must complete continuing education credits to maintain their designation.

Only those legal investigators who: (a) are licensed (if required) to practice, and, (b) have at least 5 years of verifiable work experience as a full-time legal investigator (60 semester hours of education at an accredited college or university may be substituted for one year of experience) are qualified to begin the Certified Legal Investigator program.

Salary Statistics and Forecasts for Legal Investigators

Back in 2011, the salary survey conducted by the National Organization of Bar Counsel (NOBC), which included solicited responses from all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, the average salary for a legal investigator was $61,209. The maximum salary in this field, according to the survey, was $123,701.

The survey also found that legal investigators in the eastern region of the county earned an average salary of $73,089; legal investigators in the country’s southern region earned an average salary of $47,663; legal investigators in the western region earned an average salary of $61,442, and legal investigators in the central region earned an average salary of $59,698.

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Now as per the updates from August 2021, according to Zippia Careers, the job outlook research states that the annual salary for legal investigators is around $57,984 a year.

Between 2018 and 2028, the career is expected to grow 6% and produce 50,100 job opportunities across the U.S.

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