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Code of Ethics

National Association of Legal Investigators

Code of Ethics

A legal investigator is one who is dedicated to the pursuit of information in support of the truth and the furtherance of his or her client’s interests. These pursuits are expected to uphold the humanitarian ideals of fairness and justice for the benefit of the client in each case, and thus society as a whole. It should be the intention and practice of every investigator to conduct themselves to a standard of honesty and courtesy in each professional task and assignment.

The National Association of Legal Investigators’ mission statement reads, in part, that it was “formed to endorse, promote, and safeguard the highest professional ethics of the legal investigative profession and to explore, cultivate, and advance those arts and sciences.” NALI has also undertaken the responsibility to “establish a standard for the practice of legal investigations.”

In keeping with these ideals, the NALI Executive Council voted in 2023 to adopt the highest standard of ethics in the legal investigation industry. Also in 2023, the same Executive Council voted to espouse as the highest standard of the time, Code of Professional Conduct: Standards and Ethics for the Investigative Profession, 4th ed., Kitty Hailey.

While the Code of Professional Conduct is considered to be the current standard-bearer of industry ethical practice, NALI does not endorse a single individual as the sole arbiter of ethics, as no single person can justly hold such a title. The code contained herein is intended to be a guide and a structure for which all investigators should understand in order to regulate themselves.

Furthermore, all NALI members shall conduct themselves within these parameters to the best of their ability in order to maintain a status of “in good standing.”

For easy review, the following section is a Summary of the Rules of Professional Conduct, excerpted from the Code of Professional Conduct. NALI advises that all legal investigators should review the book in its entirety for a more complete understanding of their ethical responsibilities.


Maintaining the Integrity of the Profession

Rule 1: 1 Licensing

Proper registration and approval by applicable licensing authorities should be met before one seeks to initiate work in the field of professional investigation.

Rule 1:2 Certification

The investigator must not use credentials that do not apply and have not been earned and maintained.

Rule 1:3 Highest professional standards

To sufficiently serve the public, the investigator should maintain the highest professional standards. All investigations are to be conducted with integrity, honesty, and excellence.

Rule 1:4 Abiding by the law

The investigator must, at all times, adhere to those legislated rules and regulations that apply to all other citizens.

Rule 1:5 Cooperation with law enforcement

An investigator should cooperate with all recognized and responsible law enforcement and governmental agencies, not interfering with ongoing investigations or knowingly promoting criminal activity.

Rule 1 :6 Advertising and the investigator

Advertising of services by the investigator should be truthful, tasteful, and in compliance with the laws of the state in which he or she is licensed.

Rule 1 :7 Solicitation for attorneys

An investigator should not solicit clients on behalf of an attorney or attorneys.

Rule 1:8 Misconduct

Investigators should not engage in professional misconduct or fail to report the misconduct of others. Professional misconduct extends to criminal acts, falsification of information, or violation of the Code of Professional Conduct.

Investigator-Client Relations

Rule 2:1 Scope of employment

The investigator works at the will of others. The services to be provided and the rules of engagement should be defined before beginning any work.

Rule 2:2 Competence

An investigator shall provide competent service for a client.

Rule 2:3 Diligence

An investigator shall act promptly and with reasonable diligence for all clients.

Rule 2:4 Communication

An investigator should keep a client reasonably informed.

Rule 2:5 Fees

All fees should be reasonable. Fees should be mutually agreed upon before beginning work and should be adequately explained to the client.

Rule 2:6 Confidentiality

Discretion and confidentiality by an investigator are expected and anticipated.

Rule 2:7 Conflict of interest

An investigator should not work for a client if that employment jeopardizes an investigation for another client.

Rule 2:8 Truthfulness and accuracy

It is incumbent upon the investigator to be truthful and accurate in advertising, in dealings with clients, in reporting findings, and in communications to any tribunal, court or law enforcement agency.

Rule 2:9 To do no harm

The investigator should be constantly mindful of the welfare of others, taking care to not knowingly do harm to any person.

Rule 2:10 Courtesy to the client and to the public

Courtesy and civility are to be extended to all clients and to the public.

Rule 2:11 Personal bias

Personal prejudice, bias, and political or religious beliefs should not be permitted to interfere with the faithful and honest discharge of an investigator’s duty.

Rule 2:12 Records maintenance

The client’s property should be preserved separately and safely, apart from other property in the investigator’s possession. Investigators should maintain a system of record keeping that allows information to be retrieved for a reasonable time after the work has been completed.

Rule 2:13 Terminating a working relationship

An investigator’s service for a client shall cease when either party has withdrawn from the working relationship and has clearly informed the other that all work should be terminated. The relationship may be terminated by either the investigator or the client.

Investigator-Investigator Relations

Rule 3:1 Responsibilities of an investigator, agency owner, or license qualifier

The investigator must make reasonable efforts to ensure that all persons working with or for him or her adhere to the same rules and abide by the law in the same manner as the investigator.

Rule 3:2 Partner, employee, or subcontractor responsibilities

All individuals working with or for an investigator are expected to adhere to the same rules of conduct demanded of the investigator.

Rule 3:3 Subcontractor regulations

A subcontractor is forbidden to contact the primary client directly unless authorized by the contracting firm.

Rule 3:4 Reputation of other investigators

An investigator will not directly or indirectly inhibit the future prospects or adversely affect the practice of another investigator.

Rule 3:5 Payment of work by other investigators

Investigators should compensate each other appropriately and expediently for work performed.

Rule 3:6 Multiple investigators working in concert

Responsibilities and reimbursement of each investigator should be clarified and confirmed before beginning an assignment. Responsibility and credit should be shared with all parties.

Rule 3:7 Competition between investigators

An investigator should not interfere with business contracts between other investigators and their clients.

Rule 3:8 Assistance and guidance between and for investigators

Assistance and guidance should be offered to investigators with less experience or those in need of help to complete an assignment. Education in the form of mentoring raises the level of knowledge and competency of all investigators.

Transactions with Other Persons

Rule 4:1 Respect for rights of third persons

The legal rights of all persons are to be respected by the investigator in the pursuit of evidence and information for a client. This includes the right to privacy and from harassment. Changing laws regarding privacy should be understood and respected.

Rule 4:2 Communication with persons represented by counsel

An investigator working for an attorney or a client who is represented by counsel is precluded from contacting an individual represented by opposing counsel. An investigator should not violate any rules regarding ex parte contact during an investigation. Internet and social media contact are herein included. It is the responsibility of the investigator not to overstep the limits implicit in ever-changing laws.

Rule 4:3 Communication with witnesses and persons being interviewed

All persons with whom an investigator must communicate regarding a matter under investigation are to be afforded all the rights and privileges of any citizen. An investigator should respect and not infringe upon the rights of any person.

Rule 4:4 Communication regarding investigative services

An investigator should truthfully and accurately represent his or her services to the public. Investigative services and the investigator’s abilities should be honestly portrayed.