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Professionalism:
The Kitty Hailey Hallmark

By Stacy Neuberger

OK, a show of hands, please. When you were in second grade and had to sit through a parade of professions during "Bring your Parent to School" day, didn't you want to grow up to become the fireman with the loud siren and the sliding pole, the deep-sea diver who retrieves sunken gold bouillon bars from the bottom of the ocean, or the professional football player with his likeness gracing countless rookie cards? Conspicuously, but not surprisingly, absent from this list was "licensed private investigator." Other than the few childish moments when we all hoped to receive a call begging us to become the newest Charlie's Angel, or tapping us to fill in for 007 while he's undergoing hernia surgery, how many children actually grow up thinking "That's what I want to be ... a licensed private investigator"?

So, how then does someone come to be a professional private investigator? Thirty years ago, the likely candidate would have just retired from police work, or the armed forces, and thought it a natural career progression, or might have come from a variety of other positions and just somehow fallen into the profession.

Katherine R. "Kitty" Hailey fits snugly into the "just fell into it" category. At the time, this small town, family-focused hippy with a spanking new degree in Fine Arts, was aimed solidly towards a career teaching art at Camden High School in New Jersey. She would scarcely have entertained the thought that professional investigation would become her life's work. In fact, she asserts, "it was an accident." "I never intended to do this." But such a career change - more an evolution - came to her through community involvement and service, and she's never looked back!

In the thirty-three years since this transition, Kitty has led a challenging and exciting life, earned the designations of Certified Legal Investigator (CLI®), and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), and has become an enduring and prominent contributor to the profession.

Kitty was blessed with an "Ozzie and Harriett, sweet, perfect childhood," born the middle child sandwiched between an older brother and a younger sister. She remains close to her artist sister, who specializes in sculpture-most recently creative doorknobs and hardware-and to her California-based brother whom she describes as the "Mother Teresa" of cardiologists.

Kitty's father was "a sweet grouch with a heart of gold", whose death twenty-eight years ago left her mother understandably devastated. Since then, Kitty's mother, a "smart, amazingly literate, voracious reader" has become even closer to Kitty-personally and professionally.

At the height of Kitty's business, her 70'ish year old mother, Sue Schatz, arrived in the office one morning, asserting that she "needed something to do, and thought she could help." That was twenty years ago! Since then, she's straightened the files, kept the books in order, and become an incredibly valuable sounding board. She's Kitty's "role model, best pal, golf buddy and lunch date," and rarely a day passes when they don't see each other.

Kitty's love of, and devotion to, her family resounds in her everyday life, as well. She is energized by her extended family, including the husband she met at her favorite South Street coffee shop, five children, nine grandchildren (with another on the way!), and two great grandchildren. She recently attended the marriage of a son in California, and gets together on the weekends with three of her granddaughters. As talented an educator as Kitty is, she's amazed by the things her children and grandchildren can still teach her, and remains quietly pleased at their interest in her professional accomplishments.

Early in her career, while juggling her business with her household, children and hobbies, Kitty benefited from the advice of respected attorney Lynn Gold-Biken who suggested that she "do what you do best, and don't do what you don't do best." Gold-Biken also reminded her that the shirt she wore likely wasn't emblazoned with a gigantic, red "Superwoman S," and to get over trying to be just that. Ever the quick study, Kitty readily accepted this advice and opted to relegate and delegate so she could devote even more attention to building her business.

And her business flourished. Acu-men---a full-service investigative legal assistance firm---eventually employed twenty-six and performed investigations for over three hundred attorneys and other clients. Her employees, mainly women, focused the majority of their attention on family law related issues, personal injury and insurance work for over twenty years before Kitty sold the business and "retired." This retirement, thankfully, wasn't a lasting one. Kitty's return to the profession with the new business venture "Hailey and Hailey," was heralded by a grateful client whose first words were, "Thank God! Will you go to Paris?" Easy answer!

Kitty's expertise has benefited the incredibly diverse spectrum of cases she's addressed through the years. She has embraced the delirious joy of locating lost children, exposed fraud perpetrated by bank employees, uncovered the culprits of corporate theft, enthusiastically pursued wrongful conviction cases, and researched a myriad of litigation-oriented cases. To each of these cases she brings a sense of professionalism that has been honed and fine-tuned by decades of experience.

It is this expertise that this dyed-in-the-wool "education freak" employs to help teach and guide those new to the field, as well as those outside of the profession, saying, "our work is much too important to be taken lightly." She strongly supports the establishment of a profession-wide Code of Ethics - so much so that she recently authored the Code of Professional Conduct: Standards and Ethics for the Investigative Profession. Beginning with a comprehensive compilation of association, state, national and international professional investigator ethics codes, Kitty's book "restates and explains" their content and continues on to establish a standard to which professional investigators should aspire.

An incredibly early riser - we're talking beating the early bird by hours - Kitty utilizes this quiet morning time to dedicate to her passion of writing. She usually rises between 2 and 3 a.m. to write on any of a diverse group of ongoing projects, whether it be jotting down notes relating to a case, preparing a speech for a seminar, composing her regular column for Cluesonline.com, putting the finishing touches on the New Jersey association's monthly newsletter, or dedicating her efforts towards another book to further the investigative profession.

Her resume includes two books she's authored, three books she's contributed to, and nearly fifty articles. A self-described "good story-teller," her efforts in this arena have paid hefty dividends, including being named the recipient of the 2002 National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI) Editor/ Publisher Award, as well as receiving other writing awards from NALI, the Indiana Society of Professional Investigators (INspi) and the Texas Association of Licensed Investigators (TALI).

Although she currently holds memberships in a veritable alphabet soup of professional associations (NALI, NCISS, CII, ATLA-NJ, NACDL, NJLPIA, PALI, PIAM, INspi, IPAG, and TALI), Kitty wasn't always as confidently involved as she is now. She recalls the first time she was asked to speak at a NALI Region I meeting as being a turning point for her. It was in addressing the group, overwhelmingly composed of men, that she learned that her particular background represented a tremendous asset, that she had an enormous amount of professional experience to share, and she was AMAZED by how great it felt to do so.

Now, in her writing and public appearances, Kitty is a staunch, vocal supporter of national minimum standards for licensing and continuing professional education. Additionally, Kitty readily hops on her soapbox to rally against the "very real, very deadly legislation that threatens to strangle our profession" - legislation designed to limit access to public records. Asserting that limited access "does not protect the privacy of the individual," but rather "protects the ... criminal, stalker, the insurance abuser," she strongly encourages investigator involvement in preserving these access privileges by "writing to at least one State leader, ... talking with at least one attorney about the problem, and supporting the state and national organizations that have become the voices of our profession."

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Kitty primarily works on her own these days as Kitty Hailey Investigations in Philadelphia where she undertakes mostly criminal defense work. She relishes this challenging departure for the opportunity to "right a wrong," viewing it as "investigative work at its purest."

In 2001, Kitty's years of experience and commitment to the profession were honored by her selection as the first female to receive the industry's most prestigious award, the Julius "Buddy" Bombet Lifetime Achievement Award. Her humble reaction was one of surprise and pleasure that she had been recognized for what she had accomplished, contributed, as well as given back to the investigative profession.

So, what is this consummate professional's advice to new investigators? Get experience, take a writing course to learn to better express yourself, meet people, travel, and perform your work in such a manner as to dispel the public's often inaccurate and tarnished perception of the profession. After thirty-three years, Kitty is still doing all of these things.

No matter what she is doing, you can rest assured that it is being done professionally - that's the Kitty Hailey hallmark!

Stacy Neuberger, formerly employed in the field of industrial security, is a freelance writer based in Tampa Florida. She can be reached by email: CNAFLDOI@earthlink.net.

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