Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye
by Colleen Collins

A nonfiction, no-holes-barred, modern-day story about life in the female PI fast lane

amz COLLEEN COLLINS 300 x 451

Click on cover to go to book’s Amazon page

Today I’m posting an excerpt from Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye by Colorado criminal defense attorney Shaun Kaufman, managing partner, Shaun Kaufman Law, as well as my former P.I. business partner (we co-owned a private investigations agency for 10 years), and husband.

Because Shaun has 30 years experience in the Colorado justice system, beginning in the 1980s as a public defender, and has trained several dozen private investigators over the years, I thought it’d be interesting to get his perspective on times as a lawyer he’s chosen to hire a female investigator rather than a male.

When Lawyers Call on Female Investigators for Services

by Shaun Kaufman, managing partner, Shaun Kaufman Law 


Although there are circumstances where either a male or female investigator will do, sometimes it really helps a lawyer to have a female P.I. handle certain investigations, such as when:

  • A male investigator, because of stature, voice and mannerisms may intimidate recalcitrant witnesses (especially children and women) resulting in a situation where witnesses are “scared off.”
  • An investigator must get access to a government or private sector executive who is worried that a male may “turn them in” or otherwise chastise them with supervisors.
  • A witness must be interviewed in depth about a delicate, touchy subject such as sexual behavior or some other concern that requires discretion, because female investigators are seen as more empathetic, more compassionate and less clinical than a male investigator.
  • A subpoena or other legal paperwork needs to be served on a mistrustful or cautious witness. A female investigator (who doesn’t look like a cop) can catch these wary subjects off guard and give them the paperwork without tipping off what her purpose is.

I have practiced law for a couple of decades, and during that time I’ve learned that a handful of investigators, male and female, should be kept available for certain types of cases. A man may be useful if size and voice are the only means to get a statement, or to get someone served.

The Attributes of a Female P.I.Female PI

This is how I first learned about the attributes of a female P.I. I was a baby public defender in the mid-1980s. As the new lawyer in the office, I was assigned the newest investigator, a new hire. (By the way, public defender investigators are truly private investigators— they carry no badge, no gun and they have no official privileges to search or arrest.)

This new investigator was a Jewish mom from the suburbs who had recently lost her doctor husband to a heart attack. She wore hand-knit sweaters and granny glasses. She favored seersucker dresses and L.L. Bean clothes. She had been to some Eastern college, and spoke like someone who came from a privileged background. She drove a new Volvo. She would never get on a Harley, never touch a gun, and she had no retired cop buddies. By contrast, the lead investigator in the office was a retired police detective who used intimidation and bluster to get what he wanted (which didn’t always work.)

Immediately, I noticed that the new female investigator brought extraordinary compassion and empathy to her case work. She was tenacious and worked harder than her male counterpart. She had drive, and never shied from any task. People in housing projects and trailer parks took to her. She got interviews, and served witnesses with subpoenas in those places. Over the years, I saw other women working as private investigators bring similar traits to their jobs.

A Recent Case

In a recent case, Colleen and I met with a local attorney who needed interviews in a case where his client, an adult, had been charged criminally for some conduct that took place in front of children. A young, troubled child witness had to be interviewed quickly and thoroughly before the other side got to him and tainted his view of the events. The attorney had asked if I would conduct the interview. Ten minutes into the discussion with him, I knew that Colleen could speak to this boy without  frightening him or causing him to shut down. I felt that the child would like Colleen, and she would get more information from him, so I suggested she be the lead investigator on the case.

She met with the boy, his mother, and ultimately got a great video interview that lasted over an hour. On top of it, she built enough rapport with the mother so as to make it easy to serve a subpoena on a later date. This was all accomplished using the very same compassion, sensitivity and intuition that I discussed earlier.

Beneficial Traits of a Female P.I.

From my perspective, here are some traits that make a female P.I. perfect for an investigation:

  • They are non-confrontational, which in turn encourages witnesses to share confidences.
  • They are intuitive, and they see the case as a whole.
  • Women will work to outdo male investigators because they know that they start with a disadvantage.

Beneficial Traits of a Male P.I.

In all fairness, there are also times when a male P.I. is perfect for an investigation. For example, if I have a difficult witness who knows the law (usually someone with plenty of personal experience with the courts), then it is often helpful to use a male P.I. whose presence demands attention.

One of the best weapons in a male P.I.’ s arsenal is his voice. He can command someone to stop, and prevail more often than not. I have never used investigators of either sex to put “muscle” on subjects, but I have no objection to a muscular P.I. going to a doorway and letting people see his conditioning. This is especially true if the subjects have been thumbing their noses at less-intense approaches.


I will conclude by saying that a good investigator, female or male, must work tirelessly and with dedication. Female or male, a great P.I takes his/her character traits (empathy, intuition) and uses them on the job to get the best investigative results.

To order Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye, click here

“As an experienced private detective and a skilled storyteller, Colleen Collins is the perfect person to offer a glimpse into the lives of real female P.I.s”
~Kim Green, managing editor of Pursuit Magazine: The Magazine of Professional Investigators

“SECRETS OF A REAL-LIFE FEMALE PRIVATE EYE is a great resource for anyone writing a female P.I. character, or any P.I. character. Filled with great tips and real-life examples, it helps clarify how things are really done. But it’s particularly interesting how the book shows that a female P.I. can have a distinct advantage over a male P.I. in many situations, something for writers to think about.”
~Paul D. Marks, author of the 2013 Shamus award-winning noir-mystery, White Heat