colleague recently asked for a background checking service
recommendation. I am not familiar with these services. What do legal
research professionals recommend for business owners who want to run
background checks on potential clients? Checkpoint? LexisNexis? Any
Paul Bush, Matthew Bird and I respond to the
question about background checking services.
Paul: Background checking means different
things to different people, and the scope of a search will vary
depending on why you need the information. Also, the information you
have before you start might effect the sources you should consult.
With so many individual databases online, there are now more sources
than ever for finding information about a person.
There is no one source for conducting an exhaustive
background search (with the exception of hiring a private
detective), but here are some sources to consider:
PACER, state and local court databases for
litigation, bankruptcies and other court
ChoicePoint - for information such as name,
address, phone number, SSn, liens,
drivers license data, boat and airplane ownership and corporate
Local free government Web sites for
arrest/booking logs, most wanted and sex
Various free sites for phone, address and email
directories (reverse look-ups too).
Free state government databases for professional
Matthew: For basic background checks,
Choicepoint is great. (9 May 2008:
ChoicePoint Online, to which Matthew referred, is no longer
available. AutoTrackXP, mentioned below, remains available.) I use it mostly to locate people, but it's
also a good place to start a background check. It provides a lot of
information at a low cost (about $10 per name). My experience has
been that AutoTrackXP (by the same vendor) offers more information,
but it is not necessarily more useful information.
Gardner Carton & Douglas LLP
Editor: Public record research is a type of
research requiring special skills and access to special resources.
Major public record research systems include ChoicePoint Online,
AutoTrackXP, Accurint and LexisNexis. KnowX is another major system,
but because it targets consumers, it doesn't provide the same level
of detail, access or functionality. (KnowX has
introduced services for professional researchers, but I haven't
If your colleague wants to
conduct such research regularly, s/he should obtain access to more
than one of these systems and attend any training classes the
vendors offer. It's best to have access to multiple sources because
the information, and how you find it, differs from research system to
You should also be aware that only about
public records exist online. The rest consists of paper and other
kinds of records. This means thorough research requires manual, as
well as online, searching.
BRB publishes an excellent public records
primer, which appears in The Sourcebook to
Below is a list of resources on The Virtual Chase that might help
Your colleague might also want to explore hiring a
professional public records researcher. S/he should check with the
Independent Information Professionals. I can also recommend Lynn
PFC Information Services.