Is your consultant a criminal?

This is a strange topic: Is your consultant a criminal? In this context, it is related to your trial consultant. When one hires a new employee, most often, a variety of background checks are conducted. A lawyer’s criminal history is policed by Bar associations; similarly, other licensed professions are vetted. But, what about professions not requiring a license, like trial consulting? The only trial consulting organization, the American Society of Trial Consultants does not vet members in any way, including for criminal history. So, does your consultant have a criminal record? How do you know? Does it matter? I suppose finding out if the consultant (or perhaps expert witness) has a record is the easy part, if one thinks to do so. Does it matter? Quite possibly, yes. This post stems from a discovery a number of years ago that one of our key vendors was, in fact, a convicted felon and on probation at the time we got to know him and his company. I accept that he had served his prison time and was winding up the probation, and therefore, deserved no further punishment for his crimes. But, keeping in mind that he did not disclose any of it, and we had to discover it ourselves after a few suspicious events, I suggest that it matters in other ways. It matters in terms of honest, trustworthy, business dealings. As we learned about the person’s criminal background, we learned that it was such that his integrity was compromised under certain circumstances. I believe that, by terminating our business relationship, we prevented this from happening, but this is why it matters. In this case, another thing happened; this person made harassing, vulgar “prank” telephone calls to one of our employees. As business owners, we have a duty to protect employees from such things. The experience forced us to change vendors, and add at least 1 more layer of background checks to our vendor system. I know, it is one more thing to worry about to consider if the consultant, expert, or vendor you are engaging has a criminal record. But, be aware it can happen and the negative possibilities are frightening. Our records are clean by the way…

In the decades Magnus has been in business, we have found out many things about our employees, vendors, and prospective employees that, absent our checking into them, would have remained hidden.  Often, these secrets were nothing serious, for example, the office administrator we hired, even though we knew she had been arrested for D.U.I.  Then, there was the job applicant who we declined to hire because she was not qualified for the job for which she was applying. Several years later, we learned she had faked her credentials to obtain employment elsewhere (David still had her real resume`, thus, it was easy to demonstrate she was lying).  These incidents, of course, pale in comparison to the convicted felon David mentioned.  Until this unfortunate experience, I had never considered conducting a background check on Magnus’ vendors, all of whom are business owners in their own right.  Finding out that Magnus’ oddly behaving vendor was, in fact, a person who had served several years of  “hard time” for a horrendous crime in one of our nation’s most notorious prisons, the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, was a true wake up call for me.  Needless to say, I learned my lesson and from that day until Magnus ceases to exist, I will always conduct thorough background checks of everyone with whom we do business.  Attorneys are well advised to do the same. One never knows what secrets people are hiding and the negative impact this could have on one’s business or law practice.


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