Whether you have been there and done that or not, conducting an internal investigation is almost always new.
That's because you are looking for compliance, violations, or other liabilities. If you don't find something bad or good, you are not really doing your job.
In the end, your company should have a report that helps it move along. As they say, it's about the journey.
Starting an Internal Investigation
First of all, don't put off investigating a problem. Start early before a concern becomes a nightmare. One sexual harasser, for example, can create a toxic company culture.
Identify those employees who present a risk to the business. Then take action, even if it means suspending or firing people.
Tips for Conducting Internal Investigations
Consider engaging outside counsel. Consult with public relations. More eyeballs are better than two.
"Sometimes these issues can get away from you if, at the outset, you haven't identified what needle you're going to look for in the haystack," Valecia McDowell, a member at Moore & Van Allen, told Inside Counsel.
Conducting Internal Investigations in a Big Case
It's not every day that you get to work on a high-profile case. For most general counsel, that's a good thing.
But lawsuits can turn garden-variety cases into showcases for "What's Wrong with Corporate America?" If you don't like that kind of headline, make sure to protect confidential information and attorney-client privileges. And sometimes, the best reports are not in writing.
Monitoring Legal Changes for Internal Investigations
As in any field of law, attorneys need to stay on top of changes. One regulation, case, or lawsuit can change everything.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, for example, credit reporting agencies are required to notify consumers of changes in their credit information. But then a staff attorney with the Federal Trade Commission expanded the definition of "credit report" to include a broad range of communications. It "shocked employment attorneys and human resource professionals" because they had to take another look at companies to make sure they were in compliance.
That happened years ago, but it shows how something old can become something new -- including how you conduct internal investigations.