Getting Started on Factual Investigation

Rule 13 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure dictate an attorney or party's signature "constitutes a certificate by them that they have read the pleading, motion, or other paper". It further dictates that to the best of the attorney or party's knowledge, information, and belief "formed after reasonable inquiry" the instrument bearing the attorney or party's signature is not groundless and brought in bad faith or groundless and brought for harassment purposes. A violation of this rule has the potential to result in the imposition of sanctions on the attorney and/or party.

Factual investigation is a necessary skill that interns in this Clinic are required to master. Students are expected to perform and document their efforts on each and every case to the satisfaction of the supervising attorney and clinic faculty. Although students may rely initially on information provided by the client, a total reliance would be a gross error in judgment. Clients may forget remote information, possess incorrect or partial information, have a hidden agenda, or may not have knowledge of the information.

Students frequently want to know "how much is enough". There is no rule of thumb on this, but experience tends to be the best teacher. Your supervising attorney and Clinic faculty will guide you on this initially. You will quickly develop a sense about the depth of "sleuthing" required on any particular case largely because factual investigation is based on the issues presented in the case.

By way of example, family law shares some common themes. The first question is who is your client. This may seem somewhat simplistic. However, the next question is a companion to the first and determinative for me. What legal rights of my client are being impacted? For my client, this may encompass constitutional issues, paternity, SAPCR issues, property/debt issues, etc. For me "the who & what" questions are very important. As an attorney, I want to make sure I have exercised due diligence and reasonable investigative efforts prior to filing anything with the Court.

The following is "broad brush" information on how to get started.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This information has been provided to the student interns of the General Civil Clinic to assist you in getting started on your cases. Two basic components of this, which are also targeted skills for this Clinic, are proper investigation of the facts & issues of your cases coupled with a thorough client interview. I hope the above helps you in your issue identification and investigation skills development. Please be aware this device was never intended to substitute for the personal assistance of the Clinic's faculty and staff. We are here to help you. Please do not hesitate to ask us.


Betty J. Luke, LL.M., J.D.
Asst. Prof. of Clinical Studies & Dir. of On-Site Legal Clinics
South Texas College of Law Legal Clinics
1602 San Jacinto Street
Houston, Texas 77002
Phone: (713) 652-0009
Fax: (713) 652-5960