Monthly Educational Feature: October 1997 {Prepared by John W. Ellis, B.S., M.A.J.}
This month's feature is a short look at a service agreement for private detectives. It is prompted by a request received from a member this month. A service agreement can be developed for you by an attorney or you can develop your own with a little research at the local library.

A good starting point is to examine business or legal references that contain standardized contracts or agreements. A frequent reference is "West's Legal Forms". This source contains two standard agreements which can be used to develop your own service agreement. The first is found in section 4.381. Contract of Employment of Investigator by Law Firm. This contract begins with the usual identification of the parties to the agreement and the date. It then contains paragraphs on the following topics:

Examining this contract is helpful in developing an investigative contract, but it is not directly applicable to a private detective working as an independent contractor. Consequently, examination of contracts that are similar is of assistance. A second agreement found in the same source is that found in section 4.255 Agreement with Accountant. Accountants frequently provide services to a number of businesses or individuals in a manner similar to the independent operations of a private detective. Consequently, this agreement is helpful. The paragraphs in this agreement are:

Obviously, working as an independent private detective or operating as a small agency is different from both of these situations. There are certain additional points which you may wish to address in the contract by inclusion in the various paragraphs or by addition of paragraphs. Here is a short list of the issues for private detectives which you may wish to address:

The service agreement can be as simple or as complicated as your needs dictate. Various types of agreements may be needed to ‘match' the agreement to the particular service being provided. By making a flexible agreement [one with optional provisions in certain paragraphs] on a word processor, you can quickly eliminate those portions of the agreement that are not needed in a specific agreement. The service agreement is as valuable as you make it; it can enhance your professional image while simultaneously protecting your interests. One can view it as a ‘use it or lose it' situation for your independent business.