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Internal Investigations 101: Witness Interview Strategies, Part III (The Non-Adversarial Approach)

An internal investigation is an important mechanism an organization can use to address an allegation of wrongdoing, determine legal liability, identify individuals or parties with culpability, comply with regulatory requirements, develop corrective measures and enhance operational efficiencies. Buckner is pleased to continue its blog series highlighting best practices, strategies and techniques that can be used by organizational leaders and counsel during an internal investigation. Today’s post will continue a review of witness interview strategies with a discussion on avoiding an adversarial approach when conducting investigation interviews.

Attorneys in a civil or criminal case often use aggressive or adversarial strategies and tactics to gather relevant evidence. An aggressive or adversarial litigation approach, which can include tactics deemed intimidating or manipulative, is believed by some to cause witnesses or other parties to provide an attorney with information helpful to the client. However, in an internal investigation, an attorney or investigator is interacting with individuals in a fact-gathering environment—the primary goal is to obtain (in an efficient and accurate manner) as much relevant evidence from as many persons with pertinent information as possible. Thus, in an internal investigation, an attorney’s or investigator’s most effective course of action is to forgo an adversarial approach and embrace a non-threatening demeanor. It has been my experience that an attorney or investigator who relies on friendliness, integrity and professionalism increases the likelihood of gathering useful evidence from most witnesses and sources of information. It is important to remember the majority of interview subjects have never been involved in an investigation and will participate in an interview with uncertainly, fear, anger and other emotions. A lawyer or investigator who acts in a professional manner and treats witnesses and other sources of information with respect and integrity will more than likely place the individual at ease—which will facilitate a smoother evidence collection process.

For more information on conducting internal investigations, please contact Michael L. Buckner at +1-954-941-1844 or mbuckner@bucknersportslaw.com.

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About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, civil litigation, estate planning and compliance services.

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