When a licensed professional is targeted by a state agency for an investigation, it can be one of the most stressful episodes of their career. It’s often unclear what documents have to be turned over, whether or not interviews are “voluntary” or “mandatory,” and what the consequences of the investigation could be.
We have covered the importance of legal counsel for licensed professionals who are going through an investigation in past posts. Recently, we have seen investigations that appeared to be dormant or inactive suddenly spring to life, either in the form of an investigator asking for more information after six months or more of silence, or in the form of an Accusation filed against a licensee after almost two years of silence from the agency.
What specific lessons can we learn from these lengthy timelines? For one thing, it is even more important to have an experienced attorney manage an investigation case. In our office, we keep physical and electronic records for each client active no matter how long the agency has been silent, so that we are prepared in the event of a change of circumstances. For another, it’s important to remember that an investigator could continue an investigation or conduct an interview at any time, even many months later, so a licensed professional should always be cautious when dealing with an agency.
The biggest lesson for our clients, though, is more fundamental. Often, as a result of an investigation, our clients learn that a particular aspect of their business or practice either should be or needs to be improved: whether it’s charting, record-keeping, accounting, or any number of professional skills, often we identify business practices that our clients should correct in order to avoid professional discipline. These changes are important and must be permanent, because the agency never stops watching a licensee after an investigation is opened. It is no good to make positive changes for six months or for a year and then go back to the old way of doing things, because if the investigator comes calling or an Accusation is filed, those business practices may make the difference between success and failure in an administrative case.