James Tillen Comments on Rise of Internal Investigations in Who's Who Legal

"Roundtable:  Investigations 2014"
Who's Who Legal

James Tillen participated in a question and answer session on key issues facing lawyers regarding the surge in corporate internal investigations. "While the number of internal investigations initiated by US companies has always been high in comparison to non-US companies, the pace of investigations in the past few years has been particularly rapid," Tillen said, adding, "... a significant contributing factor to this increase is the proliferation of companies adopting robust compliance programmes."

With respect to the key skills required to be an effective investigations lawyer, Tillen said, "An effective investigations lawyer must have the ability to develop big-picture strategy at the same time as focusing on the minutiae of data collection and review. An investigations lawyer must also know when to keep digging and when to end an investigation, when to serve as an objective assessor of facts to determine legal exposure and when to act as a zealous advocate for a client. It is not enough to uncover wrongdoing; an investigations lawyer must also identify why the wrongdoing occurred and what steps the client can take to prevent the same issue from arising again. An effective investigations lawyer will also be a quick study of people, personalities and cultures." He added, "Nearly every employee is going to feel threatened or nervous about being interviewed or investigated by investigative counsel. Outside counsel must recognise the disruption this process brings to the lives of employees and to the day-to-day operation of a business. Similarly, you must recognise the local culture (whether business or ethnic) and how that affects how you are perceived by employees. By recognising that you, the lawyer, are the outsider and disrupting their day, you will be more likely to put employees at ease, and through respectful, but persistent, questioning develop information useful to the investigation. Finally, you need to have some understanding of the industry and business of the client. For one thing, this demonstrates to employees and the client that you have invested the time to understand what it is they do, and that you are not there to just ruin their day, collect your fee and move on. Moreover, some basic knowledge will help the investigator keep from being misled or snowed under by employees who may obfuscate through using a lot of industry jargon or shop talk in the assumption you won’t understand the information being delivered and will be too intimidated to seek clarification."

Regarding the growth of work in the field and the competitive landscape among law firms, the professed experience has increased exponentially in the past five years, Tillen said. "In this crowded field, it is important that clients properly evaluate law firms to ensure they are retaining lawyers with the required expertise and the vision to conduct cost-effective investigations. In this regard, boutique firms can and do compete successfully with global firms."

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