Do’s and Don’ts for Finding and Hiring an Employment Lawyer

DO’S

DO SEARCH LAWYER WEBSITES

Most lawyers now maintain active and informative websites. You can learn a lot about who you might want to hire to handle your case by reviewing them.

DO PROVIDE A CONCISE WRITTEN CHRONOLOGY OF YOUR CASE

Employment cases are complicated and fact intensive. A lawyer will not be able to tell you whether he can help you unless he knows most of the details of your case. However, do not be too verbose. If you cannot summarize what happened to you in a concise manner to him, he may have trouble doing it before a jury.

DO FILL OUT WRITTEN QUESTIONNAIRES IF REQUIRED

Many law firms have developed questionnaires. These are not idle exercises. You must fill them out to help your lawyer understand your case so he can better help you. If you do not put the effort in now, he will think you will not be able to count on you later.

DO PROVIDE THE LAWYER THE COMPLETE STORY

Similarly, it is important to be completely truthful with your lawyer from the beginning. Even if there are some bad parts to your case, be up front about them. Your lawyer may be able to work through them. If he does not think he can, it is important for you and him to know that as early as possible. You and he do not want to be filing losing cases and he will not want to be blindsided later by something he finds out from the employer’s lawyer later that you have withheld.

DO INQUIRE ABOUT THE LAWYER’S FEE ARRANGEMENTS

Many employment lawyers have somewhat complicated fee structures and structures that vary depending on the case. You need to know upfront what will be expected of you financially. Most jurisdictions now also require a lawyer to set forth his fee arrangements in writing.

DO EXPECT THINGS TO TAKE A LONG TIME TO RESOLVE

Our civil justice system is slow. In addition, often you will be required to file first with administrative agencies and wait a mandatory period of time before you can even get to court. Moreover, employment cases are very emotional for both sides. Even though many settle, it will take a long time for the parties to get over their bad feelings before attempting a resolution. Be patient.

DO EXPECT TO SPEND SOME MONEY FOR LAWYER’S FEES AND EXPENSES ON YOUR CASE

Remember, in general in this world, you get what you pay for. Employment cases usually cannot be financed like accident cases-that is on a contingency basis where the lawyer only gets paid if he wins. Employment cases are a lot harder to win than accident cases and often provide for lower damages. Therefore, it is often not economically practical for your lawyer to take the case for nothing at the outset with the hope that he gets paid at the end.

DON’TS

DON’T EXPECT YOUR FEE ARRANGEMENTS TO BE LIKE THOSE ADVERTISED BY ACCIDENT LAWYERS

See discussion above.

DON’T EXPECT A “FREE CONSULTATION” FROM MOST EMPLOYMENT LAWYERS

Again because employment law is very fact specific, an employment lawyer needs to know all the facts of your case before he can commit to representing you. This often takes time. If employment lawyers are not paid something for this, they cannot stay in business.

DON’T EXPECT YOUR CASE TO BE EASY TO PROVE LIKE ACCIDENT CASES

In addition to being fact intensive, employment law is very complicated. The law places very high burdens on employees before they can win their cases. Also, employment law has created many complicated procedural hurdles in bringing a case. Many of these rules do not exist in the typical accident case.

DON’T EXPECT LARGE MONETARY DAMAGES THAT CAN OFTEN OCCUR IN A SERIOUS ACCIDENT CASE

Employment law often places restrictions or caps on the amount of recovery. Generally you are limited to lost pay and benefits and some amount for pain and suffering. Punitive damages are disallowed in many cases and are extremely rare in those that do allow them. Moreover, unlike accident cases, most, if not all, of the award will be subject to federal and state taxes. Unless you were a very high wage earner, do not expect to retire on your winnings.

DON’T EXPECT YOUR LAWYER TO BE ABLE TO OBTAIN AN EARLY RESOLUTION OF YOUR CASE OR QUICK SETTLEMENT

Employment cases generally are hard fought and take a long time to resolve. Do not expect a quick settlement or even any settlement. Although many cases are settled, prepare as if your case will end up in front of a jury. It will only increase the value of your case whether it does or not.

BE REALISTIC ABOUT SETTLEMENT

Many employment cases do settle, but not all. Because of the difficulties in proof and restrictions on damages, it is important to be realistic about resolving any matter. There are very few “slam dunks” or sure winners in employment cases. Also, remember a settlement is about a compromise on both sides. Because you always have a risk of losing and recovering nothing, do not approach settlement as if you are entitled to everything. You will probably not resolve anything and you will lose credibility in the eyes of your lawyer, the employer’s lawyer and the judge or mediator who is trying to help you resolve your case.

DON’T EXPECT YOUR LAWYER TO BE ABLE TO PREVENT ILLEGAL ACTIVITY

Employment law is generally designed to clean up the damage your employer has caused you. Only in a rare case will it let you go to court to try to stop an employer from acting. The law says if you have been wronged you can collect money for your damages after the case is over.