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PRDV301: Introduction to Paralegal Studies

Unit 8: Investigations and Interviews   A client comes to a lawyer after a car accident.  The client has been injured and believes the other driver caused the accident, but the other driver’s insurance company is refusing to pay.  The client says the police were called and that there were several witnesses to the accident that have been identified.  To determine the client’s legal rights in the matter, an investigation has to be undertaken.  Here, paralegals play a key role in investigating a case.

In this unit, you will learn about the methods paralegals use to investigate a case.  As part of this, you will learn about the drafting of subpoenas to require the provision of evidence.  You will also learn how a client intake interview should proceed and how this is different from interviews of witnesses.  The ability to pull this information together in a usable format can have a major impact on the success of a client’s case.  This unit will introduce you to the skills necessary to do this.

Unit 8 Time Advisory
This unit should take approximately 3 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 8.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 8.2: 1.5 hours

Unit8 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- Describe the elements of a successful investigation. - Explain how a successful interview should proceed.

8.1 Investigation Methods   - Reading: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “Defining the Goals of the Investigation,” “Types of Investigation,” “Investigation Resources,” “Important Investigative Qualities,” and “Communicating Your Results” Link: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “Defining the Goals of the Investigation” (HTML), “Types of Investigation” (HTML), “Investigation Resources” (HTML), “Important Investigative Qualities” (HTML), and “Communicating Your Results” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the links above and read these
articles in their entirety.  The first reading, “Defining the Goals
of the Investigation,” describes how a paralegal should start an
investigation.  Investigation does not start with contacting witness
and collecting evidence.  It must be systematic.  You will find
information on defining the goals of the investigation and
developing an investigation plan.  Do not forget to consult the text
boxes entitled “Essential” and “Fact.”  

 The second reading, “Types of Investigation,” provides information
on various approaches to conducting an investigation.  While one way
to investigate is to show up at the scene of the activity giving
rise to civil or criminal liability, there are other approaches that
may be more effective in certain circumstances.  Investigations may
be conducted in writing, by telephone, or with a computer.  Be sure
to take note of the text box entitled “Alert.”  

 The third reading, “Investigation Resources,” provides information
on the many resources available to a paralegal conducting an
investigation.  Note the importance of developing and maintaining
your own list of resources.  The “Fact” text box suggests some
common sources of investigative information.  

 While the process of investigation is important, certain attitudes
and approaches to the process are also critically important.  For
example, you might not think of a paralegal career as providing much
of an opportunity for creativity, but as the fourth article,
“Important Investigative Qualities,” points out, this is a critical
requirement for good investigations.  

 Having gathered your information does not end the investigative
process.  You have to communicate the information to your
supervising attorney and others.  The result of your investigation
will be an investigative report.  In the last article,
“Communicating Your Results,” pay particular attention to the
questions you must answer.  

 Reading these articles should take approximately 1 hour and 30
minutes.  

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8.2 Interviews   8.2.1 Client Interviews   - Reading: Paralegal Today: Ellsworth T. “Derry” Rundlett III’s “How to Interview Clients” Link: Paralegal Today: Ellsworth T. “Derry” Rundlett III’s “How to Interview Clients” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this entire
article.  This article deals with the most fundamental contact with
a client: the initial telephone call or inquiry.  Here, an
experienced trial attorney discusses the process a paralegal should
go through in dealing with that initial contact.  While the
discussion centers on a personal injury practice, the advice is
transferable to other areas of the law.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
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  • Reading: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “The Initial Client Interview” Link: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “The Initial Client Interview” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this entire article.  This article deals with interviewing the client during the first meeting.  In general, these interviews are conducted by the supervising attorney.  However, they are still important to the paralegal and will help guide the paralegal’s actions in relation to the case.

    Reading this article should take approximately 5 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.2.2 Witness Interviews   - Reading: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “The Fact-Gathering Interview,” “Defining the Goals of the Interview,” “Preparing for the Interview,” “Interviewing Experts,” and “Communicating Your Results” Link: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “The Fact-Gathering Interview” (HTML), “Defining the Goals of the Interview” (HTML), “Preparing for the Interview” (HTML), “Interviewing Experts” (HTML), and “Communicating Your Results” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the links above and read these
articles in their entirety.  The first reading, “The Fact-Gathering
Interview,” describes what is involved when interviewing lay or
expert witnesses.  You will notice that the two types of questions
used in witness interviews, open-ended and closed-ended, interact
with each other.  Thus, an open-ended question may allow an
opportunity to develop more focused closed-ended question.  In the
end, the goal is to get relevant and specific facts and to apply
them to the legal issues in the case.  In addition, you may be
called on to assess a witness’s credibility and knowledge of the
important facts.  

 The second reading, “Defining the Goals of the Interview,” provides
information on taking a systematic approach to witness interviews. 
Often, the nature of an interview is dictated by the goals of the
supervising attorney.  As noted, checklists help to organize
information.  However, each interview is different and the effective
interviewer is not bound by the order of the checklist.  

 The third reading, “Preparing for the Interview,” provides
information on the preparation required for an effective interview. 
In the law, preparation often accounts for the difference between
effective and ineffective legal representation.  The paralegal’s
preparation can range from finding and setting up an interview
location to deciding the approach the questioning should take.  In
all situations, the paralegal needs to be very familiar with the
case.  

 The fourth article, “Interviewing Experts,” points out the
distinctions between the lay witness interview and the expert
witness interview.  Paralegals often play a large role in finding
and hiring expert witnesses to provide specific expertise on certain
matters.  In addition, the paralegal may have an ongoing
relationship with the expert, and through ongoing interviews, the
paralegal will explore with the expert how the facts apply to the
area of expertise.  

 Once again, having conducted an interview of a lay or expert
witness does not conclude the process.  You have to communicate the
information to your supervising attorney and others.  The result of
your interview will be an interview memorandum.  The last article,
“Communicating Your Results,” will provide a three-part approach to
writing the memorandum that will effectively present the results of
your interview.  

 Reading these articles should take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.