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Meet Joanne Parrent of Parrent Smith Investigations & Research

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joanne Parrent.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Joanne. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I worked for years as both a screenwriter and book author. I also wrote some pieces for magazines and blogs.

In the early 2000’s, my spouse, an attorney, was working on a case where she needed some research done in Georgia. She sent me there and the attorney from San Francisco she was working with also sent a private investigator that he had been working with. I got there a few days before that PI and when he arrived, I told him everything I had found out by talking to people down there. He was impressed and asked if I would ever consider doing work for him — he said he sometimes has cases where he needs help in LA. I said sure. I realized that being a PI involved the same sort of skills as doing research for something you are writing — asking people questions and delving into document research. So, I started doing a few things for him and he soon introduced me to a guy who was then located in Laguna Beach who had been a PI for a long time and had been his mentor. This guy, Nic Smith, took me under his wing and schooled me in being a PI. We ended up working together in two other companies before starting our own firm in 2005. Today, we have clients from all over California and the country.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Our clients are mostly lawyers. Like other service businesses, there are slower times. During those periods, we usually try to figure out how to market ourselves better — improve our website, email clients, etc. Then there are other times when we are very busy. Sometimes we get big cases and get very tied up working on those cases and barely have time to deal with anything else. During those periods, we usually bring on some temporary help. We are part of associations with other licensed investigators from California and around the world and we rely on help from other investigators on major cases or when we are shorthanded or very busy.

We’ve developed some great relationships with other PIs all over LA and the state who work for us from time to time. There have also been times when each of us were sick — I was in the hospital for a week in 2014 — and the other person was stuck handling everything. That’s hard for a business like ours where many of our clients have relationships with one or the other of us.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Parrent Smith Investigations & Research – what should we know?
We help people find information that will help them make better decisions whether they are in litigation, in business or just need to know something in order to move on in life. We do small cases and large ones. Although we mostly work for attorneys, we also have worked for municipalities, non-profits and for companies, both large and small. As investigators, we do not simply specialize in one type of case. A lot of what private investigators like ourselves are trained to do can be applied to various types of cases. A background check, for example, is useful and can be important in everything from employment cases to fraud cases to business mergers and acquisitions. The asset searches we do are important for people or businesses trying to collect judgments but also in marriage dissolutions where one party might be trying to hide assets from the other party. Interviewing witnesses also is something that we do frequently in many kinds of cases. We are also one of the few private investigation companies that have worked on very large, long running environmental cases.

What sets us apart? I think it’s the complementary backgrounds and skills we bring to our partnership. Nic’s has a long history as a private investigator. He’s been one for decades — so there’s not much he hasn’t dealt with before. And I bring my writing background. We both bring our curious minds and we talk about every case together. So, when our clients get reports they are not only clear and readable, they represent the best of both of us.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Honesty. We are honest with our clients and potential clients. A lot of people think that private investigators can find out anything they want to find out. They can’t. Especially if they aren’t willing to break the law. We won’t take on cases unless we feel we can help our client solve their problem. Many times, we can help. Since we are experts at finding information and since information can help people make better decisions, the investigation and information we provide often helps not only people in litigation but people with tough business decisions to make. But, we are also careful about making sure our clients understand the limits of what we can do legally.

The other thing I think is a really important quality for a private investigator is curiosity. Nic and I are both curious types and, as investigators we have to be curious enough to keep digging for information to try to get to the bottom of something. We have to also be curious enough to keep learning and searching for better and more efficient ways to find information — new databases, new sources, new colleagues with skills that we might not have.

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